Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering: What It Means To Our Community


Rarely does one data point accurately measure what success looks like.

Because St. Louis is a baseball town, think about this – when considering the effectiveness of a player, what if the St. Louis Cardinals only measured the number of times a player hit the ball when stepping up to the plate, ignoring everything else. If only looking at one data point, hitting, I suspect the overall success of the team would suffer. The players wouldn’t work to improve in any other area, such as fielding, because there would only be an incentive to play to the metric that is valued by management, even at the expense of the team.

Fortunately for St. Louis fans, the Cardinals look at far more than hitting when assembling and managing a team. They look at a player’s on-base percentage, field performance, and other elements that indicate the total value a player brings to the team. When measuring what defines success, you manage to numerous metrics. This is why the metrics you choose matter.

The same holds true in other industries, including animal welfare.

At the APA Adoption Center, we believe every adoptable pet should have a safe, loving home of their own. Everything we do, every decision made, supports this vision. This is what success looks like to us. To determine whether or not we are achieving this goal, we utilize many different metrics – number of adoptions, number of pets we helped keep in their homes, number of pets able to access high quality vet care through our low-cost wellness services, number of lost pets reunited with their families…you get the idea. We use a lot of metrics because we know this work is about saving and improving lives, and the impact of something so significant and complex can’t simply be measured with a ‘numbers in, numbers out’ approach.

We also believe we have a responsibility to balance our commitment to animals with our commitment to the St. Louis community. For this reason, the APA is committed to being a socially conscious animal welfare organization. This means our focus is to consider the individual lives impacted through the totality of our programming, both animal and human.

The concept of socially conscious animal sheltering originated in Colorado in response to the confusion, divisiveness, and limitations of the no-kill philosophy in animal sheltering, which uses a single data point – a 90% or above live-release rate (‘numbers in, numbers out’) – to define success. Based on respectful and compassionate care of animals, the socially conscious framework allows us to more fully understand and define our role in creating the best, most appropriate outcomes for all pets in our community, not just those who enter our doors. It is finding a place for every healthy, treatable and community compatible animal. It is supporting pets throughout our community by providing access to high quality, affordable veterinary care. It is transparency. It is collaboration. It is thoughtful policy making. It is creating a safe community for all who live here.

The eight core tenets of a socially conscious animal community are to:

  1. Place every healthy and community-compatible animal.
  2. Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care.
  3. Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed.
  4. Align shelter policy with the needs of the community.
  5. Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions.
  6. Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support.
  7. Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals.
  8. Foster a culture of transparency, ethical decision-making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration.

At the APA, we support compassionate, responsible, and humane care for every animal in our community, be it at the APA or elsewhere. We put these tenets into action in everything we do – through adoption programs that help nearly 4,000 pets find homes each year, low-cost wellness programs that help thousands of pets remain healthy, and through programs designed to help meet more specialized needs of our community, such as pets living in under-resourced communities or pets whose owners are leaving violent relationships. We do this because we care about the welfare of animals and believe this is the way to ensure the very best outcome for each.

Learn more about the ways the APA puts the tenets of socially conscious animal sheltering into action.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about what we do at the APA!