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Image of workers at the Madera Animal Services.
Cindy Avila and Juan Witrago of Madera Animal Services pose with an adoptable dog in front of the Madera Animal Services website's data dashboard.

How Data is Driving Madera Animal Services to Help More Pets

Image of a dog and cat.MADERA COUNTY, CA. – After thirty years of working at Madera Animal Services, Cindy Avila was promoted to director in July of 2020. Among her many goals was to make operations more efficient.

She began to envision an online tool for animal control officers which highlighted which areas had the highest number of strays being picked up, loose dog calls and animal complaints. This would make it easier for the officers to most effectively target their outing, but how to make that happen wasn’t exactly clear.

Wanting to learn as much as she could about progressive animal sheltering, Avila signed up for the Executive Leadership course at the Best Friends Animal Society, which provided online classes on such critical topics as budgeting, fundraising, lifesaving, and data.

When Avila saw Best Friends’ extensive national data dashboard on its website, which showcases shelter save rates and lifesaving needs in communities across America, something immediately clicked. Avila had longed to become more transparent with her own community about some common misperceptions about the shelter and the Best Friends dashboard was a great example of how to do that.

“We want the community to realize we do care, that we don’t kill all the animals that come in through our doors,” Avila said. “Some people are still afraid to bring their pets here and we want to inform them about all the work we do to serve our community’s pets, as well as the ways in which we need help.”

Showcasing data on a monthly basis, Avila thought, would shine a different light on Madera Animal Services and encourage its residents to become a part of its lifesaving solutions.

“Without the public’s help, we’re not going to get very far,” she said. “So I called Juan Witrago, our information technology division manager, and said, ‘Can we do this?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ That’s how it all got started.”

Within a week, Avila had a draft dashboard with a heatmap of animal calls and a separate page with stats to review. She and Witrago went back and forth until both were satisfied with the result. The dashboard went live the next month, much to Avila’s delight.

“It looks so professional and has a lot of valuable information,” she said.

The plan is for the dashboard to continue to evolve over and to add on even more elements, such as a module for lost and found pets.

“I’m very passionate about this shelter, the animals, and doing everything right. That includes technology and transparency,” Avila said. “I want people to know we do good things.”

Such transparency will hopefully motivate the community to help with the shelter’s most pressing needs. Currently, that is fostering dogs and cats.

“Fosters help our shelter immensely. Pets are happier to be in a home, they get to sleep and relax. The staff is happier, too, as employees have more time to care for each pet,” Avila said.

For more information, visit https://www.maderacounty.com/government/animal-services.


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