Creative Commons
Creative Commons

Decades ago, the media hyped pit bulls and pit breeds as nothing short of a public menace. Laws were enacted to keep the breed out of communities; owners were forced to purchase additional insurance. It has taken almost 30 years and a massive PR movement to start to restore the breed’s reputation, and there’s still a lot of work to do, as evidenced by the fact that pit breeds are more likely to be euthanized at Louisville Metro Animal Services by an alarming percentage.

Local data wonks Eric Bickel and Michael Weis put their skills to work to analyze outcomes at LMAS — specifically trying to figure out what characteristics make a dog more likely to be euthanized. The data comes from Metro Government’s open records portal LouieStat.

This LMAS analysis is the first project for Bickel and Weis’s new blog called Quantify Louisville. They plan to periodically study a data set from the city and analyze it and report their findings for public consumption.

After looking at all the LMAS data available at LouieStat, they determined five characteristics that had strong implications for whether or not a dog is likely to be euthanized:

  • Whether it is a pit breed
  • Gender
  • Whether it is spayed/neutered
  • Age
  • Size

They found that a dog’s chances of being euthanized are more than 150 percent greater if it is a pit breed; if that pit breed is a non-neutered male, the chances are 450 percent higher.

They also discovered that smaller dogs fare far better than medium or large ones. The chances of a dog being euthanized decrease by nearly 90 percent if they are toy-sized and 80 percent for small-sized pooches.

The data starts in 2011 and covers more than 50,000 animals that have passed through LMAS. During that time, 13 percent of all dogs’ outcomes resulted in the dog being euthanized. Bickel and Weis did not include pets that were brought to LMAS specifically to be euthanized, which they note “is a really weird policy for LMAS to have anyway.”

For the project, Bickel and Weis also created a calculator where you can enter your dog’s statistics and find out the chances of your dog being euthanized if in LMAS custody. Check your dog against the norm here. (Keep in mind, LMAS’s policy is to hold found dogs as strays for five days, so if they pick up your stray pup, you have plenty of time to track him down.)

The data analysts’ next reports shouldn’t be as sad as this one: Weis is working on analysis around city permit data, while Bickel is looking into health code violations.

Bickel’s day job is at Brown-Forman as lead econometric analyst; Weis works at Heartland Payment Systems as a data analyst.

“We started thinking about creating this a little over a year ago when we started playing with the LouieStat data for a training course we were leading at Bellarmine,” Bickel says. “We thought it would be a really great way to both test our data science skills and dive into the underlying stories that our city’s data is hiding.”

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