The HASS Budget Calculator

The HASS budget calculator offers a new way for animal welfare agencies to understand how to estimate costs; and it provides a means for negotiating operational budgets that will support the amount and quality of services that their communities expect them to provide.

Animal shelters have long been severely underfunded and this situation persists despite a fairly radical evolution in what shelters are expected to provide. Once little more than catch-and-kill facilities, shelters are now assumed to be agencies for the support of animals that our society has come to recognize as family members—yet their budgets are still founded on the expectations of a now defunct model. Lacking the data to support requests for funding that is more appropriate to their needs, allowing them to meet higher expectations for in-shelter quality of care, responsive customer service, and for lifesaving adoption, return to home, return to field and transfer programs, shelters have been left struggling with inadequate budgets year after year and with few effective means for changing the situation.

The cost of this situation is considerable, and it falls on both people and animals. With animal services chronically understaffed, shelter workers are left suffering high turnover, excessive stress, compassion fatigue and even high rates of suicide. People in the community are frequently outraged by the conditions of animal shelters and do not understand that the cause is not lack of caring, but a severe lack of resources. Just as critically, the persistent underfunding of shelters has been a root cause in high levels of needless euthanasia.

How the Calculator Was Created

Recognizing that little will change without a data-backed means for convincing decision-makers to consider more appropriate funding, a HASS Government Budget Working Group was formed to address the issue. The group was made up of participants from a wide range of professions (including CFOs, data specialists, businesspeople, as well as animal welfare leaders). It spent over a year gathering data from industries with similar functions. For example, to calculate more appropriate budgeting for daily animal care, the working group looked in part to private pet boarding facilities that—like all good businesses—must calculate the leanest expenses that will meet the expectations of their clients for the care of beloved pets. They looked to various types of field response industries, such as appliance repair services, to consider the staffing levels and time allowed per call for field officer programs. And so on.

In the current first iteration of the calculator, agencies will be able to figure appropriate costs for daily care, treatment of medical or behavioral issues, and adopting out animals in their custody. It should be noted that many of these costs can be applied alternatively to support the same number of animals kept out of the shelter and with their families, through support for veterinary and rehoming costs, etc., without impounding the pet.

For shelters developing the HASS model of animal services: Costs calculated by the budget tool for community engagement and behavior and safety departments can also be shifted to alternate uses to help lower the cost burden for in-shelter care. If an agency is active in also using resources for cases outside the shelter to provide the same outcomes of lives saved and treatments given, they can reduce their overall kennel load and thereby saving a significant amount of in-shelter expenses.

What’s Happening on the Backend of the Calculator

Users of the HASS calculator will input data related to critical factors in budgeting and that will allow results tailored to each shelter’s circumstances, such as the size of the human population to which each is responsible, levels of animal intake, local base pay, and typical annual number of calls from the public for animal-related issues.

On the backend, the calculator factors in the wide range of data gathered by the HASS working group, such as appropriate staffing levels for each shelter function, time spent per task, average vet time per animal, etc. It also incorporates assumptions, based on known expectations of a nation that has come to think of companion animals as family members: It budgets for lean but ideal shelter operations. For each agency using the calculator tool, calculated results are likely to be significantly higher than its current annual operating budget.

Note that once all input fields are filled and you have clicked on “Calculate Your Budget,” you will be taken to a blank page. Click on the “back” button on your browser and then scroll down on the calculator page to see your results. Results may be downloaded to a PDF to keep a record of your inputs and calculated budget.

  • Fringe benefits are calculated at 50% for shelters staffed by government employees (accounting for typical pooled costs, such as retirement, pensions, workforce insurance, time off, and health care) and at 25% for shelters operated by nonprofits
  • Shelters will provide appropriate cleanliness, care and enrichment, including two daily walks for dogs and other enrichment; and daily socialization for cats 
  • 50% of lost dogs and cats will be returned to their owners 
  • 50% of cats will be returned to the community appropriately
  • 5% of dogs are likely to need high-level training
  • 50% of animals in custody are cared for in foster homes
  • 5% of those taken in will die or be euthanized, with sufficient funding for treatable issues
  • Shelters will maintain robust marketing and engagement programs to ensure necessary rates of adoption, fostering, volunteerism, and community support
  • It calculates for cat and dog intake and programs only.
  • It has been created with government-funded shelters in mind, both those staffed by county or city employees, and nonprofits with government contracts. While it can also help private nonprofits understand appropriate costs for shelter operations, it excludes fundraising expenses. 
  • This iteration of the calculator does not include the ability to save input and come back later. The input of data must be completed in one session. We recommend gathering all needed data for the input fields before starting to fill in the input fields.
  • Wherever a numerical value is entered in the calculator, use only numbers. Users should not enter dollar signs ($), nor the % symbol, nor commas in numerical input fields (100000 not 100,000 for example, 10 not 10%). This will cause the calculator to reject the value you input. You may include decimal points where appropriate.

Data entered into the calculator tool will be collected on the backend. This will allow further refinement of the calculations. While development of the calculator included testing with several shelters of various types and sizes, we anticipate opportunities for refining it further as more shelters use the tool. No individual shelter’s data will ever be shared unless as part of an anonymous, aggregate analysis.

The email collected in the calculator is solely for contacting the shelter using the calculator if issues arise and will never be shared.

What To Do With Calculated Results

In this first iteration of the calculator, the main benefit for shelters is raising awareness about the severity of shelter underfunding. The calculator offers an alternative based on the way that businesses budget and it is intended to inspire shelter directors to not simply tweak their existing budgets but to start afresh and plan like a business would, based on a breadth of expense data more in line with community expectations for the care and lifesaving of shelter pets. HASS’s budget calculator is the first step in a process intended to break the cycle of underfunding. Users are likely to find calculated results that are far higher than their current budgets. By instituting better budget planning based on data, shelters are likely to arrive at more appropriate budgets through a multiyear plan.

  • Create more capacity for fostering while also reducing the number of kennels used. Foster care, including management, typically a fraction of kennel care.
  • Build out a robust volunteer program, allowing volunteers to take on functions usually limited to paid staff, such as adoption processing, foster support, and veterinary support
  • Handle more adoptions virtually rather than in person through an efficient, open adoption process that uses foster homes as the primary liaison to the adopter. Virtual adoptions directly from foster homes cost only 1/9th that of a staffed adoption for a caged animal.
  • Pursue in-kind donations of supplies. Nearly 20% of the budget is for supplies. Finding donated supplies reduces the total supply expense.
HASS Education and Implementation - Supported Self-Rehoming - Woman petting a black cat

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