Design of an animal management tool to support lifesaving practices in an animal shelter

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Munch, Mikako
Sanford, Jon
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Open-admission animal shelters face many challenges as an under-resourced and often overcrowded municipal facility. With the no-kill movement in animal welfare that aims to end euthanasia of adoptable animals in shelters, there is much opportunity for the assistance of this lifesaving movement with technology. Shelters generate an enormous amount of data to keep track of the thousands of animals that come through each of their doors and require extensive information and communication management to work through outcomes for those animals. However, very little focus has been given to the technology that shelter employees use to do their jobs. Many shelters still use legacy technologies, such as archaic databases, spreadsheets and local servers, which often limits their ability to make informed decisions, directly affecting efficiency, and at times, the number of animals they are able to save. The aim of this project is to look at how the current technology used in animal shelters affects shelter operations, and to design a new digital tool that better aligns with progressive lifesaving sheltering practices. Through auto-ethnographic, empirical, and design-based methods the different dynamics and inter-workings of daily shelter tasks were studied to identify potential areas where a tool could alleviate the shortcomings of legacy technology. A number of discovery and participatory workshops were conducted with employees to thoroughly understand the communication and information dynamics behind moving dogs through the shelter. Ultimately, an event-driven shelter animal management tool was designed for shelter employees that supports natural shelter workflow, with the aim of ensuring that as many animals have positive outcomes as possible. User-testing with shelter employees was conducted to assess how the usefulness and usability of the new design, in regard to aligning with progressive shelter operations. Finally, feedback from the user-testing sessions was incorporated for future development of the platform.
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