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Identifying Best Practices in Companion Animal Support Services

The aim is to identify companion animal sheltering and humane law enforcement practices that optimize outcomes for the animals and communities they serve.

While enormous progress in live release rates from animal shelters has been made across the US over the last several decades, improvements in practices for animals, staff and the communities served are needed. However, these animal-centric metrics lack One Health and One Welfare considerations, including the harm done to pets, pet owners, and their families when animals are removed from their homes. Alternative metrics for evaluating animal welfare programs that can capture the capability of a community to promote the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental outcomes (e.g. referrals to support services, supporting the human-animal bond, and increasing environmental stewardship attitudes) are needed.

IHAC is studying the impacts of animal sheltering practices at both the levels of individual shelters and of systems of shelters and rescues, with particular attention to how animal welfare issues coincide with human social and environmental justice issues. 

Trends in Animal Sheltering

In 2015, the Institute for Human-Animal Connection convened a group of animal welfare stakeholders from Colorado to discuss the trends in shelter data from 2000-2013. 

Meeting Notes

The research team analyzed trends in the intake and outcomes for dogs and cats in animal shelters and rescues across the entire state of Colorado from 2000-2015.

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The research team completed an in depth analysis of the trends in intake for dogs and cats in animal shelters and rescues across the entire state of Colorado from 2008-2018.

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Best Practices in Animal Sheltering

Other studies are assessing the impacts of innovative sheltering practices, moral stress in shelter staff and public attitudes toward shelter and rescue organizations as sources of pets.

Cost for Care

This detailed case study aimed to understand how an increased Live Release Rate (LRR) in Austin, TX has impacted components of shelter operations, such as: cost per animal, length of stay (LOS) and companion animal quality of life. The findings create a template for calculating the direct costs associated with caring for companion animals at other sheltering and rescue organizations.

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Sources of Pet Acquisition

This study aimed to measure the attitudes informing pet acquisition preferences and the barriers to pet ownership in Austin, TX. By understanding more about pet acquisition history, pet preference, and the social influences informing petkeeping practices, this study can inform the strategies employed by shelters in the Austin area to increase rates of adoption.

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Animal Protection and Humane Law Enforcement Policy and Enforcement

The current emphasis on enforcement and punishment in animal control policy has disproportionately negative impacts on low-income communities in the U.S., particularly people of color. In this way, animal protection efforts are perpetuating many of the same inequities under examination in the human social justice movement. Reallocating the resources that have historically gone towards enforcement in communities to efforts that provide support in addressing the root causes of animal welfare concerns is needed to improve outcomes for pets in historically underserved communities. This portfolio of studies is designed to examine the impacts of progressive animal control policy.

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Cultural Competence in Animal Welfare

The failure to acknowledge and understand cultural differences and common barriers to pet support services can lead service providers to misinterpret certain pet ownership practices as neglectful or abusive. This can create or deepen a trust gap between service providers and their potential clients, leading to an additional barrier to care. To be maximally effective, the animal welfare field must attend to the human side of its interventions in a culturally competent and inclusive way. This portfolio of studies will develop an instrument to measure cultural competence in pet support service organizations and examine the importance of cultural competency in improving health and welfare outcomes for people and their pets.

Pets and Housing Security

Housing insecurity (e.g., eviction, rental restrictions, moving) is one of the most common reasons for companion animal relinquishment in U.S. animal shelters. These rates of relinquishment are driven by a growing deficit of affordable and pet-friendly rental units. IHAC will be partnering with independent researcher, Taryn Grahm, and The Humane Society of the United States to conduct qualitative interviews with tenants from a variety of affordable housing units in Houston, TX, USA, including low-income housing tax credit developments, public housing properties, and those using housing choice vouchers. The aim of this study is to document the barriers to finding and maintaining pet-friendly affordable housing in Houston, explore the impacts of housing insecurity on the relationship between people and companion animals, and to understand the potential impact of pet-friendly policies on community-wide health. Data from this study can be used to develop programs to address housing insecurity and to inform future policymaking.