Using a Geographical Information System to Better Serve our Community

| December 9, 2022

Using a geographic information system (GIS), Toronto Humane Society published a study that identified areas within the GTA that are served and under-served for adopters, pet surrenders, public veterinary clients, and volunteers and foster parents in 2021. The study’s main purpose was to ensure that we were not perpetuating any systemic barriers for those who needed our services. 

The study was led by Tegan Buckingham, Director of Integrated Marketing and Development, who recently spoke about the study’s finding on the Esri Canada Geographical Thinking podcast.  

The first part of the research was a hot spot analysis which helps to map out where most of our stakeholders are located. “The research showed that the most well served areas were typically located in central Toronto – which makes sense because our location is in the downtown core,” Tegan explains during the interview. “Under-served areas were typically located around the borders of Toronto and in the surrounding cities of the GTA.” 

“The second analysis we did was looking at the correlation between the two different data groups – our stakeholders and the marginalization index,” Tegan continues. “One of the interesting results was for our public veterinary services clients. It was one of the only stakeholder groups that we didn’t see a cold spot form over the top of the Durham region. We feel that is because we are servicing that area. Maybe not as high as we are as the downtown core, but we were servicing Durham region at a higher level than the other surrounding municipalities.”  

That was a hot spot because the barriers that might have affected other services, such as transit, distance, or access to our facility (because we only have one location) were removed. Another consideration could be that there are other animal welfare organizations within surrounding areas that could be offering services.  

“The most surprising thing was seeing our adopters’ results. We saw that a high number of our adopters were considered to be residentially unstable,” Tegan shares. “We dove into this a little bit more. A lot of adopters are relatively young. They are adopting before having children and most millennials can’t afford to buy a house – especially in the city of Toronto. It’s not that these people are necessarily on the brink of becoming homeless, but they are considered to be residentially unstable because they do not own their home.” 

After conducting this study, Toronto Humane Society is even more convinced that we’re on the right path towards improving the lives of animals beyond our immediate community. “We were happy with the results, especially with our public veterinary service. The results encouraged us to continue expanding our work,” Tegan shares.  

“From a marketing lens, we want to continue to make sure that it’s known that these services are available to people and that they can use them – whether that is adopting, using our public veterinary services, or our Pet Parent Support Network that helps people who are looking for an alternative to surrendering their pet. There are a bunch of services that would be beneficial to people who need help.” Toronto Humane Society wants to be there for them. 

A special thank you to everyone involved in the research project – Dr. Linda Jacobson, Krysten Jank, and Kevin Roberts. As one of the very few spatial analysis studies conducted by an animal welfare organization, this research will help set the tone and help other organizations on how to assess and target their stakeholders to improve their services – and even grow their donor database. Tegan comments, “There are so many spatial questions you can ask, and answer, using GIS.” 

Want More Information?

– Listen to the podcast” Understanding the pet loving community using GIS” 

– Read the research paper “Where Are We on the Animal Welfare Map? Using GIS to Assess Stakeholder Diversity and Inclusion”