Colorado Statistics for 2013

Colorado is one of the states that require animal shelters to report their statistics to the state. The reporting form is pretty detailed and, although it’s not perfect, it elicits a lot of information. I posted last year on Colorado’s statewide statistics for 2012, which showed a consolidated live release rate of 85.5%. In this post I’ll take a look at Colorado’s statewide statistics for 2013.


Total intake of dogs and cats in Colorado shelters in 2013 was up slightly, at 168,841 as compared to 159,183 in 2012. Dogs were 101,771 of this total, and cats were 67,070. The increase in dog intake was almost entirely due to transfers, including an increase in transfers into the state of 4766. Most of the increase in cat intake was also due to an increase in transfers from out of state, which more than doubled over 2012.

The total intake of dogs and cats in 2013 was 32 animals per 1000 people, up slightly from 31 per 1000 people in 2012. Average shelter intake per 1000 people in the United States is estimated at anywhere from 15 to 30 animals per 1000 people. The fact that Colorado can do so well with a high intake is evidence that high intake is not an excuse for a high rate of killing.


The consolidated live release rate for cats and dogs for all reporting shelters in Colorado for 2013 was 89%. This is remarkable for an entire state, and represents an improvement of more than 3% from 2012, even with the increased intake. The live release rate for dogs was 92% and for cats was 83%. All Colorado has to do to become a No Kill state is to implement some of the recommendations being made by many people around the country today as to handling of community cats.

Colorado shelters do not report as a coalition, and so there might be some double counting of live releases in the “in state” transfer category. Most of the in-state transfers probably go to non-reporting rescues, though, and so to the extent that this is a source of error at all it would be a very small one. In fact, even if we assume that all in-state transfers went to other reporting organizations, the live release rate is reduced only 1 percentage point, to 88%.

If the number of dogs and cats who died in shelter care are included with euthanasias in calculating the live release rate, it drops 1 percentage point. Shelters can include owner-requested euthanasias in the “Other” live-disposition category in Colorado, so it is not possible to break them out.


One of the notable things about Colorado’s 2012 data was how well the state as a whole was doing with adoptions. That trend continued in 2013, with Colorado shelters reporting that 87,223 dogs and cats were adopted. This was an adoption rate of 17 animals per 1000 people, a slight increase over 2012’s rate of 16 per 1000 people.


Colorado shelters returned 64% of the stray dogs they impounded to their owners, an improvement over the 59% figure for 2012. Among cats, 25% of strays were returned either to an owner or a colony. This is a high rate for cats compared to the nation as a whole, but if Colorado could increase this rate by doing more shelter-neuter-return it would become a No Kill state.


Colorado has a state law prohibiting breed-specific legislation, but the law has an exception for local breed-specific ordinances that were in existence at the time the law was passed. The state’s largest city, Denver, still has one of these “grandfathered” pit-bull bans. Several small cities and towns in the state still have such ordinances as well.

East Monmouth County, NJ

Monmouth County, New Jersey, is in the center of the state and has about 630,000 human residents. It is a county of many small cities and boroughs, with its largest municipality having a population of 67,000. The Monmouth County SPCA (MCSPCA) is a private organization that has contracted with many of the cities and boroughs in Monmouth County to provide animal sheltering services for strays.  The shelter has adoption centers in Eatontown and Freehold.

The municipalities served by the MCSPCA are almost all in the eastern part of the county. These municipalities include: Atlantic Highlands (population approximately 4,000), Eatontown (13,000), Fair Haven (6,000), Highlands (5,000), Holmdel (17,000), Little Silver (6,000), Long Branch (31,000), Middletown (67,000), North Middletown (3,000), Ocean Township (27,000), Red Bank (12,000), Rumson (7,000), Sea Bright (1,000), Shrewsbury (4,000), Spring Lake Heights (5,000), and West Long Branch (8,000). There are 12 communities with 5,000 or more population served by the MCSPCA, and each of these communities is listed separately in the sidebar. Adding up the totals of all these communities, the MCSPCA provides animal sheltering services for a population of more than 216,000 people.

The MCSPCA also takes in owner surrenders by appointment. I called the shelter to get details on their owner surrender policy, and was told that they do not turn any animal away unless, in their judgment, the animal should be euthanized due to severe behavioral issues or untreatable suffering. In that case they recommend that the owner take the animal to the vet for humane euthanasia.

In 2011 the MCSPCA had a live release rate of 94% calculated by comparing live releases to euthanasias, and 90% calculated against total intake. Their intake was over 4500 animals. The shelter’s Annual Report for 2012 showed a 94% live release rate, with a modified live release rate (including died/lost in shelter care) of 93%. Total intake for the year was 4467. The Annual Report recounts how the shelter helped with the Hurricane Sandy relief effort by taking in 150 animals stranded by the storm and by distributing 300,000 pounds of food. In other news for 2012, the shelter opened an offsite adoption center at a mall and adopted out over 700 animals.

As of this writing the shelter has not posted an Annual Report for 2013. Statistics reported to the state of New Jersey showed an intake of 3538 animals for 2013 with a live release rate of 93%.

Monmouth County, NJ, was originally listed by this blog on April 15, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Not All 90%+ Save Rates Are Created Equal

We tend to think of a 90% or higher live release rate for a shelter as indicating that the shelter is doing its job successfully. That’s not always the case. Here is a look at two open-intake municipal shelters that, although they have similar live release rates, are very different in performance.

The first shelter has a 92% save rate so far in 2014. Out of its total live releases this year it has adopted out 25%, returned 16% to owners, and transferred 59% to rescues. The second shelter had a 91% live release rate for 2013. It adopted out 67% of its live releases, returned 16% to owners, and transferred 17%.

The thing that really leaps out at you from those numbers is that the first shelter relied heavily on transfers to achieve its high live release rate (59% of total live releases) and adopted out only 25%. Those percentages were very different with the second shelter, which relied heavily on adoption (adoptions were 67% of its live releases) and transferred only 17%.

The first shelter is essentially being propped up by rescues in the community. There is nothing at all wrong with a shelter looking to the community for support, and in fact the most successful communities I see are ones where there is lots of community support. But the shelter must do its share. It is possible for a community to carry a bad shelter to a 90% or higher live release rate, but it is a monumental struggle, it takes a lot longer than it needs to, and it is less sustainable. When a community has to carry the shelter on its back, you wind up with a lot of exhausted and angry rescuers.

When you look at social media for the rescuers in the first community you see a constant stream of statements such as: “Mary found this dog but cannot keep it and does not want to take it to the shelter! Please help!,” or “This cat is on the shelter kill list for tomorrow! Needs a rescue commitment,” or “This puppy has a skin condition which means the shelter might kill it – she needs a foster!”

With the second shelter things are very different. Rescuers are not overworked and are not being asked to do the shelter’s job for it. The second shelter is in a high-intake area and it struggles, but when it calls for help the community knows the need is real, and the community is able to respond because they are not already stretched to the breaking point. Most of all, with the second shelter the rescuers in the community look at it as a partner and friend, not an enemy.

So does this mean we cannot trust shelter statistics to tell us whether a shelter is doing a good job? Not at all – but we have to look at statistics in the context of the community. If we see a high transfer rate for a particular shelter, is that because it has an established partnership with a high-volume adoption partner (a good thing)? Or is it because the shelter is simply not making an effort at adoptions and is putting the responsibility off on local rescues? A good live release rate is the threshold requirement that a shelter should meet, but how it got to the high live release rate is the next question.

By the way, I’m not at all opposed to transports, where a shelter in an area with little demand for shelter animals sends dogs to an area with higher demand. I think transports are great because there are now areas of the country that have a shortage of dogs. But there is a difference between moving animals around the country to equalize supply and demand, and the shelter making local rescuers do its job for it.

Ocean City, NJ

Ocean City is a resort town located in Cape May County, near the southern tip of New Jersey. The town has 12,000 year-round residents, but in the summer the population swells to as much as 130,000 people with an influx of visitors and part-time residents.

The Humane Society of Ocean City (HSOC), a private non-profit, provides animal control and sheltering for Ocean City. The shelter accepts owner surrenders by appointment, and I was told in a telephone call to the shelter that it has a waiting list. HSOC has a full-service veterinary clinic that provides low-cost care by appointment. The shelter also offers an “Affordable Spay/Neuter Clinic.”

Public shelters in New Jersey report to the state’s Department of Health, which provides an annual county-by-county summary. A shelter’s individual report may be obtained by request from the state. The report for calendar year 2012 for HSOC shows that the shelter did very well, with a 97% live release rate. Intake was 179 animals, including 82 owner surrenders and 74 strays. The shelter reported that no animals died or were lost in shelter care. The shelter did not report any owner-requested euthanasias. In 2013, intake was 194 cats and dogs. The live release rate was 99%.

Ocean City, NJ, was originally listed by this blog on October 3, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

No Kill Heroes

Did you know that there was a whole group of people back in the 1980s and 1990s who were the creators of No Kill? These were the people who developed No Kill, proved that it could work, knitted it into a movement, and delivered it to the world. And they did all this without any thought of credit or personal glory.

The best known of the group of people who were active in the 1980s and 1990s is Richard Avanzino. He took over as shelter director at the San Francisco SPCA in the 1970s and kept that position until the end of 1998 (when he was succeeded by Ed Sayres). Avanzino was a creative leader, and on his watch the San Francisco SPCA developed the programs and philosophy of No Kill. Today, of course, he is the head of Maddie’s Fund and still going strong. Rich Avanzino is often called the founder of No Kill. He himself would say that it is the American people who deserve the credit for No Kill, because they are the ones who have opened their hearts to shelter animals.

Avanzino collected extraordinary people around him at San Francisco. Two of the most creative were Lynn Spivak and Pam Rockwell, both of whom are now retired. Spivak was the marketing and public outreach genius at the San Francisco SPCA. She helped to create an atmosphere where everyone, including the volunteers, came up with ideas for lifesaving, and the attitude was “let’s give it a try.” Her department was where the famous San Francisco programs were developed. Due to her efforts there was always something fun happening at the SPCA, and in consequence the shelter was always in the paper and on people’s minds. Rockwell was head of the Ethical Studies division. She was an Ivy League attorney and she redefined what a shelter’s job was in the community, not just for cats and dogs but for all animals. She put the ethical beliefs of the San Francisco crew on a sound legal and philosophical basis and helped work out the proper response for each new complex issue that came up.

Lynda Foro is another person who could be called the founder of No Kill. Before she started her activism, there was no No Kill movement. Starting in the mid-1990s, she held the first No Kill conferences and she issued No Kill directories. She created a network of people where none had existed before. People who wanted to stop shelter killing and who had been working in isolation suddenly discovered that there were other people just like them. Foro is retired, and has never sought any credit for her work. She’s another person who was all about the animals.

Ed Duvin has often been called the founder of the No Kill movement. His 1989 article “In The Name of Mercy” created a firestorm in the animal sheltering world. Duvin analyzed the current state of animal sheltering in light of the animal rights movement that had been underway since 1975. His critique of the animal shelter industry was devastating. He pointed out that we did not even know how many shelters there were in the United States at that time (we still don’t) much less how many animals they were killing (still true), and that sheltering had no effective national guiding body (still true). He tore down the excuse that killing was necessary to prevent suffering, arguing that shelters that did not even use the most basic management techniques had no ground on which to make that claim. He made several practical observations about how shelters could do better. Reading this document today it seems like a blueprint for the No Kill movement. And yet Duvin did not demonize shelter workers — instead, he said “[w]e reach out to our friends in the shelter community with respect . . . .”

All of these people and more were crucial to the origin of No Kill in the 1990s. No Kill is a product of many great leaders, but ultimately, as Rich Avanzino says, No Kill is the work of the American people. Today we have a new generation of younger activists who are carrying on the work. I hope that they will always be as smart, effective, and modest as their progenitors.

No Kill is on an “S” Curve

Here is a bar graph showing the increase in the human population living in No Kill communities in the 10-year period from 2003 through 2012:

Trend in Population Served by No Kill Communities lg

Here is a graph of an “S” curve:


As you can see, growth in the population of people living in No Kill communities closely matches the progression of an “S” curve up until about the -1 point. If the growth of the No Kill population continues along the “S” curve, then the next 10 to 15 years should see phenomenal growth of No Kill, to the point where the great majority of people will be living in No Kill communities. Pretty cool, huh?

Thanks go to Chris Anderson for the lovely bar graph. He prepared it for his talk at the recent Michigan No Kill conference, based on data from this blog.

You may be wondering why the graph does not contain 2013 data, and the reason is that I have not yet had time to add that data to my giant spreadsheet of over 100 shelters and coalitions representing No Kill communities. But when the data for 2013 are added, they will show another big jump over 2012. The 2012 numbers do not count Fairfax County, Kansas City, the Portland metro area, or the Seattle metro area, which by themselves would be enough to take the next big leap up the “S” curve. Good times.

Cape May County, NJ

Cape May County is a coastal resort area on the southern tip of New Jersey. It has almost 100,000 permanent residents, but the population increases greatly during vacation season. It has several townships (Lower (population 23,000), Middle (19,000), Upper (12,000), and Dennis (6000)) and the city of Wildwood (5000) as well as several smaller cities and boroughs. The county seat is in Middle Township. Ocean City (population 12,000) is at the county’s northern border.

Animal control and sheltering for the entire county, with the exception of Ocean City, is provided by the municipal Cape May County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center (CMCAS). CMCAS also accepts owner surrenders from county residents, with an appointment and a small fee.

In an interview in January 2011, shelter director Judy Davies reported that CMCAS had euthanized 8 percent of its dogs and 10 percent of its cats in 2010, compared to rates as high as 75% in previous years. The shelter reported a 7.5% euthanasia rate in 2011. The shelter does not post its statistics online, but Davies sent me the shelter’s statistics for 2012, which show a 91% live release rate with intake of 1157 dogs and cats. The statistics do not record any owner-requested euthanasias or animals who died or were lost in shelter care. The 2013 statistics reported by the shelter to the state of New Jersey show a save rate of 92%, with an intake of 1094 animals.

A big part of the county’s success is its trap-neuter-return program for feral cats, which was instituted in 2001 and is reported to have reduced the number of feral cat complaints by 80%. A group called the Animal Alliance of Cape May County holds low-cost TNR clinics. County leaders showed their dedication to the program in 2007 and 2008 when they negotiated compromise wildlife conservation rules that allowed the program to continue.

CMCAS director Judy Davies noted in the 2011 interview that the county’s intake is considerably lower than neighboring counties. The TNR program is certainly a factor in this lower intake, but Davies also attributed it to the shelter’s pet retention programs: “What we’re doing a lot more of is working with the owners of dogs. Someone might want to relinquish the dog to the shelter because it requires vet care they can’t afford or they just can’t afford the animal because of the economy. We intervene and try to help people.”

There are several private organizations that are very active in Cape May County, including the Paws & Claws Society (PACS), Beacon Animal Rescue (BAR),  Animal Outreach of Cape May County, and the Animal Welfare Society of Cape May County. PACS has a suite of programs including pet retention and adoption programs.

The Humane Society of Ocean City (HSOC) provides animal control and sheltering for Ocean City, and it has a high live release rate. I will report on Ocean City in a separate article.

Cape May County was originally listed by this blog on April 26, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Fort Morgan, CO

Fort Morgan is a city of 11,000 people located in the northeastern part of Colorado. It is the county seat of Morgan County, which has a population of 28,000. The area is mostly devoted to farming. The city of Brush, which is located in Morgan County, has 5500 people.

Fort Morgan has an animal control service, but animals are impounded by a private agency, the Fort Morgan Humane Society (FMHS). I spoke to the shelter’s operations manager, Tina Gutierrez, who told me that the shelter has contracts with Fort Morgan, Morgan County, Log Lane and Wiggins for stray intake. She said that the county has a deputy assigned to animal control. The shelter accepts owner surrenders subject to a waiting list. Gutierrez told me that she is generally able to counsel owners to be able to keep their pets or, if that is not possible, to find a rescue placement for them.

Gutierrez told me that transfers from FMHS go to approved rescues. One rescue she mentioned that has been of assistance to the shelter is Furever Friends, which does adoptions and has a lost and found service. FMHS has a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats. They are neutered and given vaccinations and a full examination. The shelter does not offer owner-requested euthanasia.

The state of Colorado collects statistics on animal shelters. According to those statistics, FMHS took in 1302 animals in 2012, which is an intake of 47 animals per 1000 people in the county. The live release rate for 2012 was 92%. If the number of animals who died or were lost in shelter care is counted in with euthanasias, the live release rate was 90%. Gutierrez told me that she instituted new medical protocols since she took over in 2012. In 2013, the shelter took in 895 animals, with a 97% live release rate. The live release rate was 93% if all non-live dispositions are counted as euthanasias.

The city of Brush has its own shelter and an animal control unit run by the police department. The Brush shelter does not accept owner surrenders. FMHS takes in many animals from Brush who are not reclaimed within the 5-day hold period. Brush was not listed as a 90% community in 2012 because the Brush Animal Shelter reported killing 56 of the 111 cats they took in during 2012. In 2013, their intake was 238 animals, with a 91% live release rate. The live release rate is unchanged if all non-live dispositions are counted as euthanasias. I’m adding the city of Brush to the right sidebar based on its reported outcomes in 2013.

Fort Morgan, CO, was originally listed by this blog on November 9, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Summit County, CO

Summit County is west of Denver and is home to about 28,000 people. It is a mountainous area of Colorado and the county was named for the many peaks within it. The Summit County Animal Control and Shelter is run by the county as part of the sheriff’s office, and it takes in strays from the unincorporated area of the county.  I spoke to a shelter representative and was told that the shelter does not have formal contracts with the municipalities within the county, but accepts impounded animals from the municipalities when they are not reclaimed by their owners.

The representative told me that the shelter accepts owner surrenders from anywhere, as long as they are brought in within normal business hours.  There is a $50 fee for residents of Summit County and an $80 fee for non-residents, but the shelter will waive the fee if the owner cannot pay.

The shelter reported a 99% live release rate for 2010, with an intake of 458 animals (scroll down in the link). It reported a 97% live release rate in 2011, with an intake of 388. The live release rate with owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care counted in with euthanasias was 95% in 2011.

Summit County is one of a group of communities in the area west of Denver that report to Maddie’s Fund and the Asilomar Accords as part of the Northwestern Colorado Coalition. Other members of the coalition are Garfield, Pitkin, and Eagle counties and the cities of Aspen, Rifle and Glenwood Springs. The coalition reported an overall 97% live release rate in 2010 and 98% in 2011 (see pages 1-2 in the links).

In 2013 the shelter reported its statistics to the state of Colorado. The shelter had an intake of 562 animals, with a live release rate of 98%. If deaths in shelter care are counted with euthanasias, the live release rate was 97%.

Summit County, CO, was originally listed by this blog on May 9, 2013, based on its statistics in previous years. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Rifle, CO

Rifle is a small town of about 9000 people in Garfield County, Colorado. The Rifle Animal Shelter, which is assisted by the non-profit Friends of the Rifle Animal Shelter, takes in several hundred animals per year. I spoke to a shelter representative who told me that the shelter has contracts with the cities of Rifle and Parachute to take in strays, and accepts owner surrenders with no restrictions except a small fee.

The shelter and the Friends reported a combined 98% live release rate in 2010 and again in 2011 (scroll down in the linked documents). The shelter and Friends reported no owner-requested euthanasia in either year, and the live release rate was not significantly lower with animals who died or were lost in shelter care included in with euthanasias. The Rifle Animal Shelter also reports its statistics to the state of Colorado. In 2012, the shelter took in 769 animals and had a live release rate of 99%.

For 2013, Rifle reported to the state of Colorado that it had an intake of 1200 animals. Of those, 926 were adopted out. The live release rate was 99.4%. If animals who died in shelter care are counted with euthanasias, the live release rate was 97%.

Rifle is one of a group of communities in the area west of Denver that report to Maddie’s Fund and the Asilomar Accords as part of the Northwestern Colorado Coalition. Other members of the coalition are Summit, Garfield, Pitkin, and Eagle counties and the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs. The coalition reported an overall 97% live release rate in 2010 and 98% in 2011 (see pages 1-2 in the links).

Rifle, CO, was originally listed by this blog on May 6, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.