To investigate trends in animal shelter and rescue organization intake for dogs and cats in Colorado from 2008 to 2018.
482 animal shelters and rescue organizations that reported annual intake data to the State of Colorado Department of Agriculture for 1,086,630 dogs and 702,333 cats.
Total intake, intake for each of 5 Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act categories (stray, owner surrender, intrastate transfer, interstate transfer, or other), and community-based intake (total intake after exclusion of transfers) of dogs and cats were assessed in total and for each organization type (shelter or rescue organization). The number taken in per year, number taken in/1,000 capita (human residents)/y, and number in each intake category as a percentage of total intake for the same species per year were analyzed with linear regression models.
Trend lines indicated that total dog intake increased over the study period, but there was no change when these data were adjusted for the human population. Cat intake decreased over time according to both of these measures. Total community-based intake decreased, whereas total intake by interstate transfer from other organizations increased for both species during the study period.
Increased transfer of dogs and cats across state lines into regions with low community-based shelter intake suggested that regional and national animal disease trends could potentially impact disease profiles for recipient areas. Findings supported efforts toward collecting animal shelter and rescue organization intake and outcome data across larger systems.
OBJECTIVE To measure temporal trends in animal shelter and rescue intakes and outcomes for dogs and cats in Colorado from 2000 through 2015 and compare trends from 2008 through 2015 with previously reported trends from 2000 through 2007.
DESIGN Serial cross-sectional study.
SAMPLE 76 animal shelter and rescue facilities with annual intake and outcome data consistently reported to the state of Colorado from 2000 through 2015.
PROCEDURES Data were collected for dogs and cats each year during the study period on 5 annual scales: number of animals taken in, number of animals taken in/1,000 state residents, animal outcomes as a percentage of intakes (species-specific scales), and annual live release rate as a function of intakes and outcomes. Aggregate data were analyzed for temporal trends by linear regression modeling.
RESULTS Decreases in annual intake and euthanasia rates and a concurrent increase in live release rate were observed for both species. The decreases observed for cats from 2008 through 2015 contrasted with the previously reported findings of increased rates of intake and euthanasia from 2000 through 2007.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE We believe that these temporal trends suggested substantial improvements in intake and outcome data for sheltered cats and dogs across Colorado that reflected changes in unhoused animal populations, along with the impact of resource allocation to spay-neuter programs, adoption marketing, intershelter transfers, and evidence-based improvements in operations. The findings indicated that consistent data collection and interorganizational collaboration can be used to optimize animal shelter capacity and outcomes across a statewide shelter system.