We Did It! 2020 Statistics

Jan 14, 2021

We Did It! 2020 Statistics

Our annual infographic is here! Even with a pandemic ravaging the country, 2020 was the best year ever for pets nationwide. Please refer below for 2020 data!

Click Here to See our 2020 Infographic!

Here are some bullet point highlights:

  • Intakes: We took in more animals than any other year in our organization's history except for 2005 (the first year our new building was open)

    The most notable number of our 2020 intakes was our "Transferred In" number. Years ago, we were constantly overwhelmed with just our own intakes. Then, over the past 3 years, we began transferring in about 180-190 animals a year (primarily dogs) when we had available kennel space. But in 2020, we almost quadrupled that number -- and transferred in 662 animals!! Some of these were even cats, which would've been unheard of even 5 years ago. With dogs, there were several weeks of the year where we had fewer than 10 dogs available because they were constantly getting adopted quickly.

    Of those 662, more than 300 came from Evansville Animal Care & Control. We are so thrilled to have reached a point where we can help our local city/county shelters maintain empty space.

  • Adoptions: We had a record year for adoptions. 2,715 which is the most in VHS history -- despite taking in so many more animals!

  • Deaths: We only had to euthanize 273 animals (and 19 died naturally) which is the lowest in VHS history, and NONE of those were for a lack of time or space.

  • "No-Kill" Threshold: We have FINALLY, after 64 years, reached a 91% live release rate which places us above the national industry standard "no-kill" threshold. (For some perspective, in 2005 when we took in the largest number of animals as mentioned above ^ only 53% of the dogs and 31% of the cats made it out alive. Now, it is 90% and 91% respectively. What a fantastic improvement we've been able to achieve since then.)

  • Spay/Neuter Surgeries: The Clinic performed 6,055 surgeries even with a mandatory statewide shutdown for 5 weeks in the spring. We also do surgeries for 8 other local animal welfare groups including Evansville Animal Care & Control, It Takes a  Village, Warrick Humane Society, and more. So when you donate to the VHS, you are also directly helping all of the other major animal welfare organizations in the Tri-State by helping us continue to offer low-cost high-quality high-volume spay/neuter!

  • Brand New Fospice Program: Thanks to having more medical resources and foster homes than ever, the shelter has been able to begin treating and placing senior animals with terminal illnesses into foster care. Years ago, terminal geriatric animals may have been euthanized simply because there weren't enough homes for the healthy animals, let alone very sick ones. This is a testament to how far sheltering has come.

  • COVID-19's Financial Impact: We were short approximately $84,000 in our 2020 budget. These shortages came from our Spay & Neuter Clinic and River Kitty Cat Cafe being closed for more than 5 weeks and unable to pay for their own expenses. We also canceled 5 major fundraisers (and several small ones) and did not make up all of that revenue.

    We received zero local COVID-19 relief funding, but thankfully were able to take advantage of some federal and state COVID grant & loan programs to help us keep the doors open for the animals. Though we did have to temporarily lay off some employees during the state shutdown, 100% of our employees were back by summer and have been retained ever since.

    Thankfully, our donors rose to the challenge and we had an increase in public support in 2020 that really helped get us through alongside the federal relief. Thank you all.

So what do all these numbers really mean? If you're a data geek, let's dive in to the details a little!

3,483 animals sheltered
In 2020, we were closed for 5 whole weeks in March & April due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Despite this, we still cared for more animals than almost any other year in our history apart from 2005 (the year the new building opened.)

65% of animal intakes from Vanderburgh County (4% decrease from 2019)
5% increase in intakes from outside the Tri-State
VHS is an open-admission shelter, which means we do not turn away any owner-surrendered animals. People do not have to live in Vanderburgh County/Evansville to surrender an animal. 

65% of our intakes still came from Vanderburgh County, which still demonstrates that there is an animal overpopulation problem in our city/county and that our leadership must be on board with programs and policies that help relieve the burden on our local shelter system. However, that number is down from 69% in 2019. The decrease is not due to us accepting fewer animals, but that fewer animals were being surrendered or found as strays in Vanderburgh County in 2020 in general. It's hard to judge whether or not that's related to the pandemic.

662 animals transferred in
As stated above, we were able to help 254% MORE animals from other shelters in 2020 than ever before. And over half of those came from our own city shelter, Evansville Animal Care & Control. The rest came from further away once EACC was already empty!

2,715 Adopted
This is a new record for our organization's 63-year history! Even after being closed for 5 weeks, even with a pandemic, more pets got adopted here in 2020 than ever before.

268 of these adoptions were cats who found homes through River Kitty Cat Café! As announced at a press conference in 2019, the VHS now owns and operates River Kitty as a nonprofit program. This was also a record-breaking year for River Kitty adoptions.

Lastly, among these adoptions were 16 rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs adopted through our adoption partnership with Pet Supplies Plus on South Green River Road. We are grateful that instead of selling small animals who were intentionally bred for retail profit, their business chooses to partner with us to adopt out homeless pets!

273 Euthanized + 19 Died
In 2020, we were lucky enough to have euthanized the fewest number of animals in our organization's history! 

This is always a hard number for people to read. But we are open about our practices and why euthanasia still happens. There are still animals who arrive at shelters with severe, life-threatening diseases. There are also incoming animals with behavior problems that would be considered unsafe or unadoptable. It is possible that some of these animals could be rehabilitated with an unlimited amount of funding, personnel, and time, but those resources are not unlimited in real life.

The industry benchmark for "no-kill" status is a 90% live release rate, meaning 90% or more of your animals leave the shelter alive in some way. For the first time ever in our organization's history, we have reached the no-kill threshold. Our 2020 live release rate is 91%.

Even though we could now be considered a "no-kill" shelter, we do not use that term. “No-kill” is a misleading and often overused marketing term in the animal welfare industry and it creates divisiveness between organizations who are all working toward the same goals. For more information on that, check out our blog post entitled, “The No-Kill Myth."

In 2020 at the VHS:

- 19 animals died of natural causes in our care from unforeseen medical issues. Many of these were young kittens born outdoors to feral mothers and having no veterinary care before coming to us. (However, overall, our kitten mortality rate was only 7%. See below.)

- 273 animals were euthanized: 65% for aggression, lack of socialization, or behavior problems; and 35% for severe health issues that were hindering the animal's quality of life. 

For the third year, we did not have to euthanize ANY animals due to a lack of space. This is a significant achievement. 2018 was the first year ever that we reached this milestone. We are so proud of these statistics and while we know there is work to be done with medically or behaviorally special-needs animals, it’s fantastic that no healthy adoptable animal was euthanized simply because there was not room for them. The VHS does not have a time limit of any kind.

In 2008, the first full year after our Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Clinic opened, we had to euthanize 1,804 animals. This is a pretty heartbreaking number, and it was pretty typical of most other years prior to that. But look at how euthanasia rates have changed since then:    

  • 2011: 1,338
  • 2012: 1,034
  • 2013: 780
  • 2014: 548
  • 2015: 458
  • 2016: 404
  • 2017: 295
  • 2018: 282
  • 2019: 324
  • 2020: 273 -- lowest number ever!

We have decreased euthanasia by 85% since our Spay & Neuter Clinic opened!

In a perfect world, no animal would have to be euthanized. But we don’t live in a perfect world yet. Every single animal that was euthanized was an individual. Every single one had a name and a story. And every single one received love and equal care during their time with us, however long that was. What’s important to remember is that we need to tackle these problems in our community at the source:

  • socialization, obedience, & behavior training for all puppies and their owners beginning at a young age, no matter where the puppies come from
  • widespread spay & neuter to prevent overpopulation and genetic health & behavior problems. The most at-risk population in our community is cats & kittens, and we must do better to ensure that owned cats and free-roaming cats are spayed or neutered.
  • enforcement of current Vanderburgh County ordinances that require a breeder’s license and a limit on the number of animals per household
  • responsible ownership, including providing regular vet care for the duration of the pet’s life

Many local shelters & rescues work collaboratively together toward these goals. They, along with the Evansville Police Department and a local veterinarian, make up EPAW: the Evansville Partnership for Animal Welfare. This is an organization formed in 2013 to collaboratively address issues in our community.

170 Transferred Out
These are animals that we sent to other facilities who had more space, or dogs who went to breed-specific rescues who could better manage their health or behavior issues. The majority are cats who went to less-crowded shelters in northern parts of the U.S.

88 Returned to Owner/Returned to Field
“Returned to Owner” (RTO) are animals who were lost and came to the VHS as strays, and their owners were able to reunite with them. Many of these were due to microchips and/or collars with up-to-date tags. Microchipping is offered every Saturday at our Low-Cost Vaccine Clinic starting at 8:00 am for $25.

“Returned to Field” (RTF) outcomes are cats who have been living successfully outdoors and are brought in as strays by kind local citizens. The cats, if not reclaimed, are returned to where they were found roaming after being spayed or neutered.

7% Neonatal Kitten Mortality
In the summer of 2017 after attending the HSUS Animal Care Expo, VHS staff converted a former dog isolation room into a Kitten Nursery. 2018 was the first full year using the Nursery and we saw very positive results, reducing kitten mortality by 9% the first year. In 2019 we reduced it by an additional 5%, totaling a 14% reduction in neonatal kitten mortality (under 2 months old) in less than 2 years!

In 2020, neonate kittens (aged 8 weeks and under) accounted for 27% of our total cat intake. And that doesn’t even account for kittens aged 8 weeks – 6 months! This shows that there is still so much work to be done with regard to spay & neuter to reduce the flow of kittens into area shelters. It’s imperative that the public help us get every single cat in the community fixed, whether that’s an owned cat or a free-roaming community cat. Our Spay & Neuter Clinic will fix cats & kittens no matter where they’re from for a very reduced cost.

28 Dogs Treated for Heartworms
Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitoes. The VHS reminds the public to always keep dogs on monthly heartworm prevention, which is prescribed through your veterinarian’s office or sold at the VHS Low-Cost Vaccine Clinic. We treated about half of the dogs in 2020 that we would normally treat in a given year, but there is no clear explanation as to why. It could be a coincidence.

Heartworm treatment costs an average of $250 for one adoptable shelter dog. It’s a significant expense that VHS incurs, and that cost is never passed on to adopters. The public can make a donation specifically to the Maxine Fund to help us treat heartworm-positive dogs in 2021.

722 Animals Benefited from Foster Care
Our foster care program serves a variety of animals. These include:

  • unweaned puppies & kittens
  • sick or injured animals
  • undersocialized animals
  • animals who are severely stressed in the shelter environment (particularly large dogs)
  • pets enrolled in the Safe Pets program for domestic violence victims (see below)

Find information about fostering a pet in need here.

17 Barn Cats Placed
In 2019, the VHS implemented a barn cat program. This allows placement for feral or less-social cats who have lived outdoors before, rather than them being euthanized. The cats are sent in pairs or trios to local barns, warehouses, granaries, etc. as pest control. 17 barn cats found placements in 2020.

4 Fospice Animals Placed
The VHS team placed its first ever "fospice" animals in 2020. These are pets who are of a very advanced age, and have a medical condition with a poor prognosis but otherwise still have a good quality of life. 2 cats and 2 dogs were placed into homes that are "fostering" them for the remainder of their lives, with VHS covering their medical expenses. This kind of program would have been absolutely impossible 10, even 5 years ago due to the overwhelming number of perfectly healthy animals needing homes... much less geriatric sick ones. These programs are made possible through financial donations and positive public perception of senior shelter pets.

7 Pets Housed through Safe Pets
This program is designed to provide a resource for pets belonging to people fleeing domestic violence situations. We work closely with human agencies such as Albion Fellows Bacon Center and the YWCA. The VHS will house victims’ pets free of charge for up to 30 days while they get back on their feet. For information on this program, visit www.vhslifesaver.org or call (812) 426-2563 extension 220.

53 hours of time at the park for shelter dogs through Cardio for Canines
CFC began in June 2016 and is our most popular program! Anyone can come walk or run with a shelter dog at Garvin Park on Saturday mornings from 8:00-9:30 am. The program is free to the public. All dog walkers must be 18+, but children and/or strollers are welcome to tag along! For additional details about CFC, visit them on Facebook or on Instagram at @cardioforcanines.

6,055 surgeries performed through the Davidson Rausch Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Clinic
This is divided between 1,553 dogs, 4,378 cats, and 124 rabbits. It includes shelter animals, publicly-owned pets, and animals on transports (see below.) While this number is lower than in previous years, it is still an admirable feat since the Clinic was closed for 5 whole weeks! 25 surgery days were lost thanks to Indiana's statewide bans on non-essential surgeries in March & April.

Of those surgeries, 823 of them were free-roaming community cats. These are cats who live primarily outdoors and do not have one specific “owner.”

17 pit bull-type dogs were fixed through our Pit Stop Program in 2019. This initiative focuses on spaying/neutering pit bull-type dogs in Vanderburgh County at no cost to their owners. By reducing the number of unaltered dogs like these running the streets, we can greatly improve their chances of survival in shelters, keep our communities safer, and eventually eliminate the negative stereotypes that these wonderful dogs face in the media.

12 surgeries were subsidized through our “Yo Mama So Spayed” program. This provides free surgery for mother dogs & cats if the family surrenders all the puppies & kittens to the shelter for adoption. It takes the burden of finding homes for accidental puppies & kittens off of the families, and ensures they will be vetted & fixed prior to adoption, while also preventing future litters and allowing momma dog or momma cat to stay in her current home. The program is a win-win for everyone.

We also provide surgeries and/or transports for 8 other Tri-State animal welfare agencies. This includes Evansville Animal Care & Control, Another Chance for Animals, It Takes a Village, Feline Fix, Warrick County Animal Control, Warrick Humane Society, and Posey Humane Society. This allows them to get very reasonable spay/neuter rates to keep their costs down as well. So when you donate to the VHS, you are also directly helping all of the other major animal welfare organizations in the Tri-State by helping us continue to offer low-cost high-quality high-volume spay/neuter!

Our Clinic has altered more than 85,000 local animals total in 14 years. Spay & neuter is the only permanent solution to overpopulation, and we are making a drastic impact throughout the Tri-State.

1,919 kids served through Humane Education programs
In 2020, Humane Education was put almost completely on hold... but almost 2,000 kids were served in-person at school in January & March, and then virtually for the rest of the year. Part of our mission is to provide humane education to the public so we can tackle our community’s animal-related issues at the source. We provide programs for people of all ages and abilities through our Humane Education Department. Program topics include responsible pet ownership, dog bite prevention, and many others. Those would wish to inquire about setting up a program or tour, including virtual options, should contact Cyndi Donley, Humane Education Coordinator.

81 Mutt’s Morning Out outings for 56 dogs
The VHS’ newest program launched in March 2019. It allows the public to take dogs “out on the town” for 2 hours on weekday mornings Tuesday-Friday. They can go to the park, the pet store, to pet-friendly restaurants, etc. 56 dogs went on 81 outings between them, giving them each a much-needed break from the shelter. The people have fun and make meaningful connections while the dogs get extra exercise, attention, fresh air, and stress relief!

Want to help us make an even bigger impact for more animals in 2021? Set up a monthly donation here!