Average Length of Stay

Average Length of Stay

Discussing our approach to saving the most animals.

by Brandon Mustful

Over the last few years, at Great River Rescue (formerly Beltrami Humane Society), we’ve held some big cat adoption specials in the summer.  We run these specials for a number reasons, not least of which is to find homes for more cats and to find them homes sooner.  We’ve learned from experience, research, and chatting with our animal welfare partners, that reducing the average length of stay should be a primary goal of any animal adoption agency.

The average length of stay can be defined as the average number of days for a shelter pet from the time it enters our doors until the time it is officially adopted.  The longer an animal stays in our care the greater the chance for illness, and the higher the demand for sufficient space.  Meanwhile, a longer stay also leads to a more overcrowded shelter, less interaction for each pet, and more stress for both the pets and the shelter staff.  Essentially, it leads to a higher population of shelter pets, more costs for the shelter, and fewer animals saved.

Therefore, we’ve worked hard over the last several years to reduce the average length of stay for pets in our care with some great results.  We’ve taken several steps to reduce the length of stay such as holding adoption specials, creating cat colony rooms, managing our intake, and conducting increased community outreach.  Managed intake has been one step that has been particularly effective for us.  Managed intake is a thoughtful process in which we schedule the intake of each new animal to assure that we have the capacity to care for them.  Although some people can get frustrated when placed on our waiting list, we are much more able to help the animals they bring us, and often times those people resolve their own situation and bypass the shelter system altogether.

Here is a breakdown of some telling statistics over the last four years:


Total adoptions have risen from 261 in 2012 to 364 in 2015.  Through August 11, 2016 we have adopted 197 animals.


Average length of stay for shelter cats has dropped from 127 days in 2012 to 39 days in 2016.  For dogs, the number has dropped from 75 days to 27 days.

dogsincare catsincare

The average number of pets in our care is also a contributing factor to the average length of stay for shelter pets.  You may have noticed that the total number of pets at our shelter seems less than it was years ago, and that has been intentional.  The formula used to determine Length of Stay is as follows: Length of Stay = Daily Capacity for Care/Daily Intake.  Therefore, a lower number of average monthly pets will decrease the average length of stay for shelter pets.  The charts above indicate that the average monthly dogs in our care has generally declined over the last four years, while the average monthly cats in our care do not necessarily reflect the same pattern.  At Great River Rescue, we take in about 15 cats per month, or .5 per day.  That means in order to maintain an average length of stay of 40 days, we should seek to have about 20 cats in our care at any one time (40=20/.5).  The Average Monthly Cats in our Care chart does show a jump in cat population that usually takes place in the summer, hence the cat adoption specials.

We are very pleased our progress over the last four years which has led to higher adoption rates, less illness among shelter pets, and more satisfied adopters.  We know that there is much more work for us to do.  We continue to struggle to find the resources needed to adequately manage the number of requests for surrender we receive.  Other issues include providing care for special needs animals, assisting the public with special needs pets when we can’t help them directly, conducting thorough intake interviews and exams, and taking-in shelter pets at the same rate we adopt them out.  We are always considering options to deal with some of these issues like using foster homes for the animals’ pre-adoptive stay, and identifying animals as “fast-track” or “slow-track” to ensure they move through the proper adoption channels can help us improve even further on our length of stay.  Ultimately, it is just a matter of having the time, money, and human resources to make these changes.

We are grateful to the public which has supported make these positive changes over the past several years.  Our gratitude also extends to the people who have been patient and understanding with our policies.  Many people have not been able to bring in stray animals and have re-homed them on their own.  In doing so, those people have not only helped that animal, but they have allowed us to help dozens more.

We will continue to strive to help as many animals as we are reasonably able to, and we appreciate your continued support in those efforts.  Please feel free to make any suggestions you might have about our policies and procedures.  We are always open to improvement!



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