Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Controlling companion animal populations in developing nations

Companion animal populations can be particularly problematic in developing countries where public policy and education about the issues is often sparse. Many of these nations have a dog and cat over-population issue that requires sensitive management, especially as they also derive significant income from tourism. In this regard the pacific island nations are no exception. Following on from an article about public perception of dogs in (independent) Samoa, recently published in Animal Welfare, Mark Farnworth, a PhD student supervised by JMICAWEs Prof Nat Waran, investigated how tourists perceive the problem of free-roaming dogs during their visits to the Samoan islands (Mark worked in collaboration with Massey University and Uppsala University).

The earlier study demonstrated that, although the Samoan people identified dogs as important for society, little was done to control the population. This led to welfare issues as humans and dogs clashed, including a high rate of dog bite injuries and reports of harm inflicted upon dogs. As a result, most Samoans felt something needed to be done. Their second study, not yet published, looked at tourism as Samoa's number one industry. It investigated how the attitudes of tourists may align with those of locals and where problems could arise. Many tourists felt the dogs in Samoa were a problem requiring management and many also felt that the dogs had a negative influence on their enjoyment of the holiday. Some had experienced aggression and even attacks from free-roaming dogs. Importantly however, tourists were extremely averse to management which had a negative welfare impact and strongly supported humane options including legislation and sterilisation campaigns.

This body of work supports the idea that more investment should be made in controlling companion animal populations in developing nations and areas dependent on tourism may be particularly amenable to change. Effective and welfare friendly methods may not only improve the experiences of tourists but may boost the economy. Likewise effective management, health care and education may reduce dog bite injuries and zoonotic disease transfer and improve the overall well-being of the local population, dogs and people alike.

If you wish to contact Mark for further information, please visit www.ed.ac.uk/vet/jmicawe

Thanks to http://lindsay-meyer.com/ for use of image of stray dogs on beach

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