Monday, June 28, 2010

Dog Tracker 101

I promised you that I would start talking about shelter intake numbers and how we can effectively reduce shelter deaths by reducing intake. For so many years, animal welfare has been working on the outgoing numbers - increasing adoptions -  that we've  ignored the fact that reducing intake is also a major component to reducing shelter deaths. If you don't bring them in - you can't kill them!

There are many ways this can be done. Some obvious, some not so obvious.  I can't believe the number of people I talk to that think shelter intake is a fixed number which cannot be changed. They think we can't make an impact on how many animals are coming into shelters and animal control agencies in the first place. What? Of course we can.

Adoptions are skyrocketing and that's a great thing. Now, it's time to find a new place to focus. That's why I'm so interested in new groups who are thinking of creative ideas to reduce shelter intake. We don't need any more rescues in Wisconsin. We have plenty - probably too many (but that's another blog).

So, today I'd like to explain the impact that a new group "Lost Dogs of Wisconsin" is having on our State.  A shelter director recently accused me of having a passion for finding lost dogs like it was some sort of freakish obsession or weird hobby. I explained that "No - I don't have a passion for finding lost dogs, I have a passion for reducing shelter deaths in America." Keeping lost dogs out of the shelter system is a very effective way to reduce shelter deaths. Lost dogs that end up in shelters often fall through the cracks and never make it back to their owners.

This "lost and found service"  is called Missing Animal Response and it should be a part of every progressive animal shelter's services. Unfortunately, it is not, - in any sort of effective or coordinated fashion in our state. The incredible short-sightedness of this shelter director's comments hit me like a ton of bricks. Missing animal response when done properly reduces shelter deaths, educates the public, increases goodwill, increases donations and strengthens the shelter's credibility and presence in the community.

Because these services are lacking in Wisconsin  a new group Lost Dogs of Wisconsin -  a non-profit, all volunteer group dedicated to reuniting dogs with owners was formed.  In a very short time, the group has grown to a network of over 2000 Facebook Fans and dedicated members from around the state who will assist owners in the search for their dog. Finding the dog quickly, keeps them out of shelters, saves taxpayers' money in animal control services, reduces community problems with "free-roaming" dogs, reduces the risk of traffic accidents with loose dogs and keeps kennel space free for needier animals.

The most comprehensive article ever written on Missing Animal Response was written by Kat Albrecht who coined the phrase "Think Lost, Not Stray" and is definitely worth the read.

There are many more great ideas and new groups that are popping up out there that are helping reduce shelter intake and I will have a "passion" for those also. I will be featuring their virtues in upcoming blogs as well as talking about how a major paradigm shift is needed to remove barriers and return "strays" to owners.

Successful shelters of the future will have Missing Animal Response services (lost and found departments) that work effectively and efficiently to help pets get back home.


  1. Kathy, I couldn't agree with you more! I just read the Kat Albrecht article yesterday, and I have been searching the web for organized programs because its brilliant. Not finding any organized programs in the area (besides the FB page Lost Dogs Wisconsin) I want to start one! I live in Racine County, and this past winter, a neighbor's white indoor cat got loose, and the approach to find the cat was not as efficient as it could be (and the cat was never recovered). After reading the article, I wish I could go back and give this family the wonderful advice (including a humane trap nearby the home) that would have increased the chances of them reclaiming their beloved pet.

    An MAR team is necessary in progressive shelters, especially humane societies...because that's the humane thing to do, isn't it? It could be developed and run entirely on a volunteer basis. It likely would attract new volunteers to animal organizations who might not be interested in the typical volunteer positions offered.

    MAR is absolutely a potent way to decrease shelter intake. All the animal advocates out there need to spread the word as we have with spay/neuter as another component to work towards no more homeless pets.

    -Lisa Grabowski

  2. Excellent points Kathy!!! There is no lose in this equation, only win/win/win/win for the owner, the pet, the local shelter & the community.

  3. Lisa, thank you for your comments. I'm sure Lost Dogs of Wisconsin would love to speak with you and could help you set something up so that you don't have to "reinvent the wheel". You can email me at and I'll put you in touch plus send you more info.