Beyond Labels: The True Impact of Live Release Rate and Intake Policies

Beyond Labels: The True Impact of Live Release Rate and Intake Policies

Dr Roger Haston (view profile)

In 2004, there was a meeting in Asilomar California that brought together leaders in animal welfare to try and find a common framework to talk about how the industry would measure progress. From that meeting, live release rate was born. It was the first time that animal welfare had a common metric to talk about success. Since then, it has gone on to become the de facto and at times singular measurement for success.

In this session, we will utilize a technique called monte carlo simulation to examine and understand the impacts of various intake and euthanasia policies on the performance of a shelter. The model will evaluate euthanasia, adoption, intake, capacity, animal inventory and cost under a variety of conditions. We will explore the limits and potential distortion that live release rate can produce in evaluating shelter performance. We will also examine the impact of intake policies and demographics as well.

Sheltering is rarely done in isolation and often involves more than one organization. Through modeling, we will also examine the interconnected relationship between organizations and how a change in a policy and one shelter can deeply affect the performance of another.

Although live release rate has been a powerful metric that created a focus on shelter performance, it has become apparent that it also has some deep limitations.  It is easily distorted, is a purely internally focused metric, and does not adequately measure the animal welfare progress in a community. At higher levels of success, the sole focus on live release rate can start to result in lower standards of animal welfare as defined by the Five Freedoms.