From Shelter to Forever Home

From Shelter to Forever Home, Big Data Helps Pets

From Shelter to Forever Home, Big Data Helps Pets
When it comes to pets, there’s almost nothing an owner wouldn’t do. Many people have a certain soft spot for cats and dogs, and it’s no surprise that organizations and individuals alike are looking to utilize big data to make pets’ lives better.

Data’s greatest use may be in adoption efforts and shelters. Shelters often go with very little funding and must operate as a shrewd business to stay afloat. They not only look after the animals in their kennels, but the animals still on the streets or in at-risk homes. There is a desperate need to reduce the intake of animals and that can be achieved through a variety of approaches.

The first step is to understand where homeless animals are coming from. This is being done with big data by mapping where and when animals are often abandoned. Compiling a list of exact locations allows workers to prioritize efforts. As with any business, hard data can also be used to effect change or acquire proper funding. Many programs are publicly funded, meaning finances can be tight and hard to get a hold of. Much like startups appealing to investors, the ability to quantitatively express how much change can be affected by a new initiative is key to securing funding.

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Enacting that change is also more effective with data. Neighborhoods and areas identified as abandonment hotspots could benefit from more preventative efforts. They could be ideal places to enact new spay/neuter programs and opportunities. Some areas may benefit from low-cost veterinary options that would reduce the stressors that eventually force owners to give their pets up. For those in low-income areas, more extreme measures like looking at housing costs and overall financial problems could lead to a better understanding of what’s causing trouble and how to change it. Data also leads directly to information on abuse patterns and could help law enforcement agencies or shelters determine high-risk areas and factors as well as pinpoint common signs.

The key characteristic of data is the ability to create efficiency. For cash-strapped shelters and programs, funding and labor can be hard to procure. It’s paramount that every decision be carefully informed by good information. Poorly executed plans have a very real effect and mean more cats and dogs will end up in shelters, often with a pessimistic outlook.

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However, for those animals in shelters, data can continue to play a big role. Profiling shelter animals as well as possible adopters could lead to more happy homes and less time in the shelter. Infomercials and ad campaigns already exist to get ordinary folks interested, yet a number of animals remain unadopted. By using the advertising- and marketing-power of big data, animal adoption could become a more effective and even streamlined process.

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