(Note: “Sample Animal Shelter” as referenced in this post, is a fictitious name for a facility. The name and numbers are merely being used as an example and are not representative of any actual facility of which I am aware.)
A brief overview, The Maths edition:
If Sample Animal Shelter took in 100 pets in 2011 and killed 90 of them, that would be a 90% kill rate. If Sample Animal Shelter took in 60 pets in 2012 and killed all 60 of them, that would be a 100% kill rate. It is misleading to look at the actual numbers of pets killed and compare them by year while excluding the intake numbers. That’s why I so often refer to kill rates since those figures take into account both intake and outcome figures.
Sadly, there are some pet killing facilities that tout their actual kill numbers, exclusive of total intake, to the media in an attempt to mislead the public. If Sample Animal Shelter’s director wanted to conceal the dismal comparison between the 2011 and 2012 kill rates – going from 90% to 100%, he would tell the media that the number of actual animals killed in 2012 decreased by 33% compared to 2011 (90 pets killed in 2011 and 60 killed in 2012). The announcement of this significant decrease fools many people, who don’t know how shelters spin numbers, into believing the people at Sample Animal Shelter worked harder to save animals in 2012 than 2011. In reality, the facility merely took in fewer animals in 2012 and staff killed every single one of them.
None of this is to say that actual numbers have no value. Indeed they do. But when a shelter director publicly claims a decrease in killing over a period of time, it is important to compare kill rates, not actual numbers, since the former tells the complete story and does not require a calculator to draw a relevant comparison. Most shelter directors either know or should know this. So too, they either know or should know that the general public, including most of the media, is unaware of the ways shelter kill numbers can be spun to trick donors and taxpayers.
As I often say, if you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.