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TAMS being misleading about Domestic Animal Services statistics?

By 29 August 2014 15

I frequently come across people saying that the DAS pound in Canberra has a 95% rehoming rate, and that this is one of the best in the country. I have always believed this figure which is reported in the TAMS (Territory and Municipal Services) Annual reports and other official documents. A friend of mine recently pointed out thought that the key here is that it is a qualified figure.

As the fine print in the TAMS annual report says, it is the percentage of dogs reclaimed or adopted/rescued divided by the number of dogs thought to be adoptable (not the total number of dogs!).

However often this fine print, which in my opinion is very misleading, is not even mentioned. For example in a Canberra Times article from last year a TAMS spokeswoman is quoted as saying “DAS rangers care for a large number of dogs and have achieved one of the highest re-homing rates of any pound in the country, at around 95 per cent.”

Mr Stanhope also frequently cites this statistic, but as he admits himself – “unadoptable dogs” however they are identified, are conveniently excluded from the equation.

  • Total dogs impounded in 2012 = 1,491 (including a carryover of 35 dogs from 2011).
  • Total dogs rehomed (includes reclaimed)= 1,245
  • Total dogs euthanized= 226 (including 66 “adoptable”)
  • Total dogs carried over till next year=20

Excluding the 20 dogs carried over to 2013 that still equals a rehome rate of about 85% if all dogs are taken into account?

The DAS pound is very good. They have a volunteer program, work closely with rescue groups and are able to achieve fantastic outcomes. I just don’t see why misleading statistics are used.

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15 Responses to TAMS being misleading about Domestic Animal Services statistics?
#1
TAMSMediaRoom2:40 pm, 29 Aug 14

The re-homing rate discussed by DAS does not include seized dogs or dogs that have been declared dangerous as these animals cannot be legally or responsibly re-homed. As these dangerous dogs cannot be re-homed they are not included in the calculation of the re-homing rate.

Some of the dangerous dogs seized or brought to DAS can be returned to their owners under strict conditions, but it is not responsible nor legal to re-home them with another owner.

#2
khaleesi3:31 pm, 29 Aug 14

TAMSMediaRoom said :

The re-homing rate discussed by DAS does not include seized dogs or dogs that have been declared dangerous as these animals cannot be legally or responsibly re-homed. As these dangerous dogs cannot be re-homed they are not included in the calculation of the re-homing rate.

Some of the dangerous dogs seized or brought to DAS can be returned to their owners under strict conditions, but it is not responsible nor legal to re-home them with another owner.

That’s completely fair enough. Just like many other council pounds around the country you have to deal with dangerous dogs, including those that have attacked people or animals. Of course these should not be rehomed!

The argument I was making is that traditionally when looking at pound statistics rehoming rates are calculated with ALL dogs in the denominator (regardless of whether they are surrenders, seized dogs, strays).

When you claim to have “one of the highest re-homing rates of any pound in the country, at around 95 per cent” are you comparing this against (a) rehoming rates for other pounds of only taking rehomable dogs into consideration (similar to your calculation), or (b) rehoming rates for other pounds which are based on the percentage of all dogs?

#3
khaleesi4:15 pm, 29 Aug 14

According to the TAMS annual reports, going back every year to 2006/2007 the “rehoming” rate has remained remarkably steady at 95% or 96% .

You would think that the “rehoming” rate would have increased over this time, at least because of the laws regarding microchipping of dogs which would presumably have led to higher reclaim rates (included in your overall rehoming rate).

If you don’t have a comparable figure from year to year (based on a standard denominator of all dogs) how can you know if you are ever improving?

#4
Mess4:26 pm, 29 Aug 14

khaleesi said :

You would think that the “rehoming” rate would have increased over this time, at least because of the laws regarding microchipping of dogs which would presumably have led to higher reclaim rates (included in your overall rehoming rate).

Some owners that are contacted either don’t want to come and collect their dog and give them up for adoption, or don’t have the financial means to get their dog released from the pound. Unfortunately people still love puppies bu forget that a pet is a pet for life. It would be nice if the figure was to go up year on year, but it is also unlikely.

#5
khaleesi8:39 am, 30 Aug 14

@Mess Of course you will always get the owners that have a low human animal bond and do not care to come get their impounded dog, as well as those who are unable to afford the fees.

But lets of the owners of pets impounded, that this percentage of owners who will not come get their dog remains roughly the same from year to year. Then a positive trend in reclaim rates should still be evident over time, if only as a result of the microchip laws or general greater awareness of the importance of microchipping. Not sure when it was introduced but DAS also have an online website with photos of the impounded dogs (except the seized ones). This is a positive development that you would also except to increase the reclaim rate.

If the RSPCA ACT rates are reflective of the general trends in Canberra then you would have expected the DAS ones to also have seen an improvement in reclaim rates (which they subsume under ‘rehome’ rate) since the mandatory microchipping of dogs law came into effect in 2008.

See graph of RSPCA ACT reclaim rate here: http://imgur.com/4YHMZ2t

#6
Antagonist11:16 am, 31 Aug 14

TAMSMediaRoom said :

The re-homing rate discussed by DAS does not include seized dogs or dogs that have been declared dangerous as these animals cannot be legally or responsibly re-homed. As these dangerous dogs cannot be re-homed they are not included in the calculation of the re-homing rate.

The most important question is: Is this the same method of calculation and reporting that is being used in other jurisdictions? If it is not the same way that other jurisdictions/organisations calculate this number, then TaMS are being misleading by manipulating data and comparing apples with oranges. TaMS still have the raw data and can (at any time) recalculate figures that provide a genuine comparison to figures from other jurisdictions.

So please TaMS, do tell: Is this figure is calculated and reported in the same way by other states and organisations?

#7
DinCanberra1:19 pm, 01 Sep 14

Just had a look at the 14-15 budget and TAMS have apparently changed the way that this is calculated with the result now being 87%, how does that compare to other councils?

It is important to note that it is does specifically say “Saleable” dogs therefore excluding those that cannot be re-homed due to behavioural issues would be appropriate.

Not sure it is up to TAMS to check all other jurisdictions, this seems to be a little unreasonable given the work it would take to gather all that information!

#8
Sookie1:54 pm, 01 Sep 14

It certainly sounds like TAMS is being a bit dodgy in the way it is reporting these statistics.

It’s all well and good to argue that re-homing rates should be based on only re-homable dogs, but when all the other states and territories have consensus on how they measure this, TAMS should not be saying “Hey look, our rates are heaps better!!” when they are actually using a totally different method of calculation! Quite cheeky.

Good work picking this up khaleesi. I hope some higher ups are alerted and the TAMS reporting becomes a bit more transparent and legitimate as a result.

#9
Antagonist2:33 pm, 01 Sep 14

DinCanberra said :

Not sure it is up to TAMS to check all other jurisdictions, this seems to be a little unreasonable given the work it would take to gather all that information!

Rubbish. It would take no more than a 5 minute phone call to each of the states to ask HOW they calculate the figures that are being reported. It would take less time if the information is requested by E-mail. Hardly unreasonable, and definitely not a time consuming exercise.

#10
khaleesi2:51 pm, 01 Sep 14

I never suggested TaMS should go around comparing themselves to other council pounds. From statements made by their spokespersons it seems like they have already compared themselves…so presumably they already have those statistics at hand? If they already have those statistics then it should not be hard to simply check if they are comparing their rates with similarly calculated rates for other pounds, or comparing their special rehoming rate with rehoming rates calculated with all dogs in the denominator.

Whether they use the term “adoptable” or “saleable” the key is that this fine print is often not mentioned in public discussions. This is not necessary TaMS fault, but could be due more to lack of journalistic fact checking. Nevertheless it gives a misleading impression of their rehoming rates.

“Canberrans also placed a lot of trust in their local pound due its high re-homing rate – 96 per cent compared with a national average of about 40 per cent. ” Canberra Times September 3, 2011

Some recent examples from Canberra Times articles which makes it sound like the rehoming rate applies to all dogs (or all ‘stray’ dogs?):

“… was impressed with the shelter’s record of finding homes for 90 per cent of stray dogs.” Canberra Times August 21, 2012

Both RSPCA and DAS have homing rates over 90 per cent.” Canberra Times October 11, 2012

Not all of the quotes above are from TaMS officials (the one in the original post is though). But these statistics get printed over and over with no one questioning them or correcting them.

#11
Antagonist10:07 am, 02 Sep 14

TAMSMediaRoom said :

The re-homing rate discussed by DAS does not include seized dogs or dogs that have been declared dangerous as these animals cannot be legally or responsibly re-homed. As these dangerous dogs cannot be re-homed they are not included in the calculation of the re-homing rate.

Some of the dangerous dogs seized or brought to DAS can be returned to their owners under strict conditions, but it is not responsible nor legal to re-home them with another owner.

TAMSMediaRoom: I asked you a simple question. Is this figure calculated and reported in the same way in other states, or is it unique to the TaMS?

#12
Sookie12:26 pm, 02 Sep 14

Antagonist said :

TAMSMediaRoom said :

The re-homing rate discussed by DAS does not include seized dogs or dogs that have been declared dangerous as these animals cannot be legally or responsibly re-homed. As these dangerous dogs cannot be re-homed they are not included in the calculation of the re-homing rate.

Some of the dangerous dogs seized or brought to DAS can be returned to their owners under strict conditions, but it is not responsible nor legal to re-home them with another owner.

TAMSMediaRoom: I asked you a simple question. Is this figure calculated and reported in the same way in other states, or is it unique to the TaMS?

I would like to hear the answer to this as well. Although it looks pretty likely that TAMS have been using their own unique method of calculation despite there being a standard method that all the other states and territories use. I hope TAMS sees this as an opportunity to improve their reporting.

#13
DinCanberra11:17 am, 03 Sep 14

Is the management and control of animal shelters under the responsibiolity of state governments or local councils?
If it’s local councils, there are apparently, according to Wikipedia, 564 local councils so I doubt that anyone will be contacting them all to compare.
Having done something similar to this in a previous life, I am unaware of any standard method but having listened to the ACT Government estimates hearings this does come up in dicussions so anyone who is interested should listen to the next estimates hearings where they discuss the results from the 2013-14 annual report.

#14
khaleesi1:52 pm, 03 Sep 14

DinCanberra said :

Is the management and control of animal shelters under the responsibiolity of state governments or local councils?
If it’s local councils, there are apparently, according to Wikipedia, 564 local councils so I doubt that anyone will be contacting them all to compare.
Having done something similar to this in a previous life, I am unaware of any standard method but having listened to the ACT Government estimates hearings this does come up in dicussions so anyone who is interested should listen to the next estimates hearings where they discuss the results from the 2013-14 annual report.

I believe it is a local council responsibility. Not sure about other states, but at least NSW does collate and publish information from the local councils and includes quite a detailed breakdown of what happens to the impounded dogs. It is TAMS themselves that compared themselves to other pounds. I never said they should do this, or that this would be a worthwile or efficient exercise.

However having compared themselves to other pounds….it would be interesting to know if they are comparing this to rehoming rates of only ‘rehomable dogs’ for these other pounds.

My main concern is that the statistic is misleading because the fine print that it only refers to saleable/adoptable dogs is often overlooked. I even know of someone who surrendered their dog to the pound and was told there was a 95% chance their dog was going to get rehomed.

The other main concern is that people will never know if the pound is improving or if the stats are changing if this is always just based on figures calculated for just rehomable dogs. (and what are the criteria for whether a dog is rehomable or not?)

#15
Antagonist6:45 pm, 03 Sep 14

DinCanberra said :

If it’s local councils, there are apparently, according to Wikipedia, 564 local councils so I doubt that anyone will be contacting them all to compare.

Randomly select a number of councils to create a representative sample, and then ask those councils how they calculate and report these figures. Problem solved.

TaMS: How are you going with answering my question? Is this figure calculated and reported in the same way in other states/councils, or is it unique to TaMS?

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