Best Friends: Harnessing Data to Save Lost Cats and Dogs. Best Friends Animal Society set out to apply data to achieve its mission — in its case, to lower the number of dogs and cats killed in animal shelters across the country.
Like many businesses, Best Friends Animal Society set out to apply data to achieve its mission — in its case, to lower the number of dogs and cats killed in animal shelters across the country. However, collecting the data and being able to apply it effectively proved harder than it would first seem.
“All of the data was in silos, and it was just horrible,” said CIO Angie Embree. “We couldn’t, as we can today, tell how many animals were being killed … everything was in the dark. And it was like, ‘We’ve got to get this data out into the light, and we’ve got to get it out of shelters and create this mechanism for innovation. So that we can create new ways of engaging people in the movement, and collect data to create more innovation and just keep going in that iterative mode,’” she said.
Created in 1984 as a no-kill organization, Best Friends operates a sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, where it cares for about 1,600 dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, potbellied pigs, farm animals and assorted wildlife each day. It also operates facilities in Los Angeles, New York, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Houston and Rogers, Arkansas.
It announced an ambitious goal in 2016: To end the killing of healthy and adoptable animals in shelters by 2025. It reports that the number of animals killed in shelters has been reduced from 17 million from its inception to around 733,000 in 2020. In 2019 it unveiled the Pet Lifesaving Dashboard, which enables people to track the no-kill movement from the national to the local level.
It partners with more than 3,000 shelters and rescue organizations nationwide and has around 10,000 animal-related partners overall.
“We’re a nonprofit, and we don’t have a lot of money to spend on technology. We need it to go directly to our programs. And so we were in a pickle as to how we were going to accomplish this,” Embree said.
It ultimately turned to Vendia, a startup combining blockchain and serverless, as its technology was being ramped up by co-founders from Best Friends’ cloud provider AWS.
“The platform that they’re building, or have built and continue to develop, is one that allows us to get in the game and accomplish our vision and goals without having to build the infrastructure ourselves and operate it. The operating costs for us would definitely prohibit us from entering the space,” Embree said.
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