When Kelly Benton joined the Kansas State Animal Response Team as a unit coordinator, recording and accessing information was like herding cats.
Hundreds of volunteers in several regions across Kansas were using paper to track animals in shelters, record the veterinary care they received, and collect information about their owners so they could be reunited later. The data was scattered all over Kansas.Someone would later collect those papers and enter the data into a computer. But then the data was on one person’s computer. That made it inaccessible to other volunteers throughout the state.
So Kelly set out to find a more accurate and time efficient way to input and access the data. That led her to AppSheet.
“I’ll be honest, I’m a geek,” said Kelly. “I believe everything should be done electronically. I’m just wired that way.”
Although Kelly spent a couple decades in IT production control during the mainframe days, she was never a programmer. But that wasn’t a barrier, she said. AppSheet is “very intuitive” and doesn’t require users to do programming.
Kelly got started by creating different Google Forms for the animal information, the owner information, and the veterinary treatment. Then, she loaded that information into AppSheet. And it was ready to run.
The resulting app allows volunteers to use any smart device. They can work offline in a disaster situation if needed. And they can simply upload data later when an internet connection becomes available.
“It’s perfect,” Kelly said. “AppSheet really fit the bill.”
The Kansas State Animal Response Team has used the app Kelly created at two disaster response exercises to date. The first drill was in September, just after Kelly finished work on the app. The second was in March.
The drills provide an opportunity for the Kansas State Animal Response Team and area vets to provide homeless and other poor people with pets a free animal clinic twice a year. They used these community events as an opportunity to give the app a test run as well.
Using the AppSheet-powered app, volunteers at the March event gathered information on 102 pets in three hours. That would’ve taken much longer using pen and paper, said Kelly. "With pen and paper, we only scheduled 30 to 40 pets in three hours."
One reason the manual method was much slower, she explained, is it required volunteers to fill out duplicate paperwork about owners with more than one animal. But with AppSheet, volunteers input information about the owner just once, and then add data about each of that owner’s pets.
The AppSheet app also allows animal clinics to easily access and record information about when people and their pets visit. It also records what immunizations or other treatments are provided to those animals.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture was impressed by the app, which it saw in action at the March event. That department handles large animals, so it could potentially use a similar app to address the needs of those animals in emergency situations, Kelly said.
Kelly also has been working on a second app. That AppSheet-powered app could launch as early as September. It’s focused on doing inventory on Kansas State Animal Response Team equipment trailers.
The organization has stationed seven or eight stocked trailers throughout the state. The trailers hold kennels, water and food bowls, a generator, and other gear. They can be used to help shelter 50 pets at a predetermined location in the event of an emergency situation such as a fire, flood, or tornado.
Using AppSheet to meet the needs of the Kansas State Animal Response Team, and the animals and pet owners it serves, has been a rewarding experience, said Kelly. And she urged any organization that wants to improve their operations to consider using the AppSheet platform to do that.
“It is so worth the time and effort. Just do it. Try it,” she said.
“I can’t image how someone came up with this idea,” Kelly added. “But it’s great. It’s really amazing.”
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