The city has created a website that provides every stat available about Tulsa’s animal population, including which part of town has the most stray animals, why people bring their pets into the shelter, and much, much more. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

This is a story about dogs, cats, kittens, rats, roosters, hamsters, gerbils, bunnies and the fate of Tulsa city government.

Let me explain.

The folks at City Hall are trying really, really hard to get Tulsans engaged in their government.

Upon taking office in December, Mayor G.T. Bynum created a whole department dedicated to “performance strategy” and “innovation.”

It’s a concept based on the belief that if you give people easy access to data about their government, not only will they be better informed, but they might just use the data to come up with an idea on how to make the city better.

But let’s face it, data can be a downer. Not everyone loves to pore over Excel spreadsheets. You’ve got to sell it — or at least put it in a format people find appealing.

The city, it would seem, is finally ready to do just that. And that’s where the dogs, cats, kittens, rats, roosters, hamsters, gerbils, and bunnies come in.

After unveiling less-than-scintillating dashboards on community policing and citywide goals, the city recently released — with little fanfare — a dashboard on the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter.

Not only does the dashboard — a fancy name for an interactive computer graphic — show how many animals TAW takes in in a given year, and why folks dropped them off there, but it shows which City Council district the critters came from. It even breaks down animal intake by months and years.

In short, anything you want to know about Tulsa’s animal population, you can find on the dashboard.

“If you wanted to go find your address and see how many dogs were picked up on your street last year or the last several years, you could do that,” said Robyn Undieme, project manager for the Performance Strategy and Innovation department.

And the dashboard is easy to navigate, the graphics clean and colorful. It actually makes looking through the data fun.

“Hopefully, (it’s) a little more in-depth so (the public) can understand the complexity of the animal problem in Tulsa,” said Jean Letcher, shelter manager.

Undieme said she knew for some time that Animal Welfare would be a good place to start when it came time for the city to begin creating dashboards.

“I remember going to her office like a year ago and seeing all these charts and graphics on her wall,” Undieme said. “She is using data to make decisions, which is really at the heart of why Bynum started this office.”

Letcher says she needed those charts and graphics. When she became shelter manager in 2008, the department still kept intake records on index cards. Over time, she has put in place a computer system covering all aspects of shelter operations, making her department a top candidate for a dashboard.

“Being able to see it graphically, it helps my staff (and) it helps me make a case for what needs to be and what changes need to be made,” Letcher said.

The dashboard could also come in handy when it comes time to raise money, Letcher said. The heat map section of the dashboard, for example, includes a breakdown of animal intakes based on household income.

“I’m looking at grants that will fund spay and neuter in low- to moderate-income areas,” she said. “So if I can show a high preponderance of animals,” that helps.

Above are the key findings of the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter dashboard created by the city of Tulsa.

The TAW dashboard plays another important role: setting the record straight on how many animals the shelter must put down and why those animals are euthanized.

The dashboard clearly shows that the number of animals put down is decreasing drastically and the number of adoptions is up significantly. From 2010 to 2016, adoptions have increased by 38 percent and euthanasia has decreased by 54 percent, according to the dashboard.

Letcher said the increase in “live exits” is the result of increased adoptions, the transfer of more animals to out-of-state agencies and the work of rescue groups.

Yet skeptics still abound.

“I think this information will be a real basis for having those conversations, of convincing people that I am not making up numbers,” Letcher said. “And that has been a real problem over the years.”

James Wagner, chief of the Performance Strategy and Innovation department, said understanding the city’s animal shelter numbers is about more than keeping track of strays or ensuring that animals are spayed and neutered.

Animal populations can affect quality of life, he said, noting a recent discussion at a North Tulsa Community Coalition meeting.

“They were talking about the top things that impacted physical health in north Tulsa, and stray dogs was one of the top-three things,” Wagner said. “Because they felt like, on the Osage Trail, for example, that they couldn’t go for a walk or a run or a bike ride because they were afraid of stray animals.

“The perception in north Tulsa is that this is a big issue, and the data bears this out.”

Jean Letcher, manager of Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter, looks at a board on the wall in her office that she has used for years to keep track of information about the animals in her care . The city has created a dashboard that puts all TAW data into an easily understandable format. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

In fairness to the city, the first dashboards it created, for community policing and citywide goals ,were focused on qualitative issues, rather than quantitative ones, making it more difficult to come up with shiny, fun graphics.

“We have different dashboards for different purposes,” Bynum said. “The community policing dashboard, it’s a very clear way of tracking out progress to implement all of the recommendations that the (Community Policing) commission presented.

“For the Animal Welfare dashboard, I think what it does is it makes the numbers come alive. Instead of being numbers on a spreadsheet that can only be understood by a few people in the relevant department, suddenly any of us can access them in a visual way, which is much easier to understand.”

For the record, Wagner and Undieme say the next dashboards on the horizon, for Municipal Court and 311, will be as much fun and as informative as the Animal Welfare dashboard.

That would be neat because, though the fate of the city does not truly depend on the dashboards it creates, when done right, they surely serve a good purpose.

Especially for animal lovers.