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Organization Background

Founded in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society to be established in North America and today is one of the largest in the world. The nonprofit was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence and has programs that extend its anti-cruelty mission across the country.

The Parvo Protocol Project

Parvo is a highly contagious virus that causes an infectious gastrointestinal illness in puppies and young dogs. Without treatment, it is potentially deadly. Animal shelters hit with an outbreak of parvovirus can experience crisis that is difficult to recover from given limited budgets and staff. ASPCA came to us to help them develop a way for administrators of animal shelters to easily generate a standard operating procedure on how to handle a parvo outbreak, minimize risk, and ultimately save animals’ lives.

To maximize usability, we created a responsive web application that walks shelter administrators through a series of questions about their current policies and resources and then generates a formalized PDF with a customized parvo protocol. Throughout this process, we discovered that many people were using the tool while already experiencing a parvo outbreak. The ASPCA saw an opportunity to help those people actively in crisis, so as a value-added, we built functionality into the application that asks users upfront if they are experiencing an outbreak and if so, provides them with the opportunity to consult with an ASPCA on-staff veterinarian.

Designed as a pilot program, the project also included a survey at the end of protocol generation that asks shelter administrators about what other outbreaks and diseases they would like to be able to easily generate protocols for. Users are also able to provide feedback via this survey about their experience generating the protocol, and overall user experience is highly rated.

Meet Your Match

The ASPCA’s Meet Your Match is a research-based adoptions program implemented at agencies across the United States and designed to increase the likelihood that shelter dogs and cats will bond with their adopters. The state of modern pet adoption has changed dramatically in recent years, with people moving adoptive pets quickly across large geographic areas with oftentimes little available background information on the animals. To ensure better matches between adopters and pets, the ASPCA called on us to create a web application for the Meet Your Match program. We built an online survey that asks potential adopters questions about their resources, lifestyle, expectations, and so on. Using the answers to these questions, they can then be matched up to pre-categorized pet personas, allowing an adopter to narrow down the type of pet they’re looking for, ultimately reducing the risk of a bad fit. From there, a shelter adoption specialist can walk a potential adopter through their results, helping them better understand what kind of pet would be right for them, while simultaneously vetting them as a suitable adopter.

To understand how shelters had been implementing this program to date, our team toured the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland to witness the previously color-coded paper surveys that shelter staff handed out to potential adoptees. Based on their answers, staff would then match adopters up with pets at a glance. Translating an offline process that had no digital equivalent was a major challenge in this project, but we overcame it by creating a new algorithm that calculates matches based off of weighted data. Now, potential adopters can come in with their results in hand, or take the survey on their phones while at the shelter.

The Takeaway

Our work with the ASPCA centered on developing innovative tools to serve animal shelters that ultimately save lives and ensure more animals are matched with loving forever homes.