animal welfare, animal shelter, DEA, data envelopment analysis, linear program, nonprofit, charity, companion animal, dog, cat, pet overpopulation, performance evaluation


The focus of this thesis is the application of data envelopment analysis to understand and evaluate the performance of diverse animal welfare organizations across the United States. The results include identification of the most efficient animal welfare organizations, at least among those that post statistics on their operations, and a discussion of various partnerships that may improve the performance of the more inefficient organizations. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are 4000 - 6000 independently-run animal shelters across the United States, with an estimated 6-8 million companion animals entering them each year. Unfortunately, more than half of these animals are euthanized. The methods shared in this research illustrate how data envelopment analysis may help shelters improve these statistics through evaluation and cooperation. Data envelopment analysis (DEA) is based on the principle that the efficiency of an organization depends on its ability to transform its inputs into the desired outputs. The result of a DEA model is a single measure that summarizes the relative efficiency of each decision making unit (DMU) when compared with similar organizations. The DEA linear program defines an efficiency frontier with the most efficient animal shelters that are put into the model that "envelops" the other DMUs. Individual efficiency scores are calculated by determining how close each DMU is to reaching the frontier. The results shared in this research focus on the performance of 15 animal shelters. Lack of standardized data regarding individual animal shelter performance limited the ability to review a larger number of shelters and provide more robust results. Various programs are in place within the United States to improve the collection and availability of individual shelter performance. Specifically, the Asilomar Accords provide a strong framework for doing this and could significantly reduce euthanasia of companion animals if more shelters would adopt the practice of collecting and reporting their data in this format. It is demonstrated in this research that combining performance data with financial data within the data envelopment analysis technique can be powerful in helping shelters identify how to better deliver results. The addition of data from other organizations will make the results even more robust and useful for each shelter involved.


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Graduation Date



Reilly, Charles


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Industrial Engineering and Management Systems

Degree Program

Industrial Engineering








Release Date

June 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)