Thursday, 30 October 2008

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Population Dynamics: Problem Solving by Adding a bit of Science - Ray Butcher

It's 9:10 and we're into the first presentation of the day. Ray Butcher is going to be talking about population dynamics - strategies for population control.

9:15: When it comes to problem solving, we need to switch our focus from the individual to the population as a whole, which is sometimes odd because of our usual focus on the individual animal.

Not only that, but the nature of the population is such that there are several different groups and kinds (pets, street animals, strays etc).

One change affects the whole population, and that is not always predictable and / or desirable. We have to approach changes working on evidence to hypothesise.

9:20: Every intervention can have variable results, the stakeholders have different priorities and the attitudes of the local population will vary; a project can't necessarily be replicated around the world. However, the method of accurate data collection can (and should) be standardised, as should the interpretation of results.

9:25: A recap on the five freedoms, focussing on the freedom to express normal behaviours. What is normal for a dog?

9:30: It's easiest to think of dogs are free-roaming and owned. Free-roaming dogs could be lost, abandoned, wandering, feral or community. Owned dogs are dogs that someone states are their property or stakes a claim of property on. What are community dogs? Ones where more than one person claims ownership; ideally they provide resources and care.

What is responsible pet ownership? A duty of care to provide resources and a responsibility to reduce the impact of your dog on the rest of the community. "Is it possible for us to engender community responsibility for the sake of the whole population?"

What about other dog populations? The dog meat trade exists, and is a significant factor. If you're trying to control the whole population, you need to take into account the whole population. Dog meat has been tested routinely, and a significant number of samples are found to test positive for rabies. So the people involved in the trade have been exposed to the disease and at the very least need to be educated and vaccinated to protect themselves. The bigger picture is important.

9:35: There are five steps to population control strategies:
  • Collect data and identify major shareholders
  • Interpret data carefully and identify local priorities
  • Consider all the potential components
  • Agree overall aims, and set objectives and delegation of tasks
  • Implement, monitor and evaluate
9:40: Questions to ask about your strategy:
  • What are the local problems caused by the dogs in your area (real and perceived)?
  • What is currently being done, and who is responsible?
  • Who are the relevant stakeholders? Education is necessary to change public attitudes.
There are multiple stakeholders and they might well not get along! Yet we have to work together to achieve success. The human health ministries have different priorities from the municipalities, who again have different aims than those working in local animal shelters, etc. What is every group's idea of success? What is the agreed aim that you are going to measure to report on success?

9:50: It's important to consider the scale and practicality of what you are doing. If you choose neutering as the solution, how many do you need to neuter? Be prepared for a long process, neutering massive amounts over a long time. If you only neuter 40%, for example, how much on an impact will it have? TNR schemes need to be carefully considered to ensure welfare is paramount. Don't forget that every project has consequences across the community, so the community must be involved. When we trap, neuter and release we must return those dogs to the community and they must have the tools, resources and education to continue the care (even if the dogs are happiest continuing to live on the street).

No kill strategies also need to plan ahead to take on board welfare issues (after all, improving the health of the animals means a longer-living, and probably larger, population). Before implementing the strategy, a structure needs to exist to care for the dogs that are being kept alive and healthy. Changing the hearts and minds of the community and coming to a unified message is crucial, and the education of the next generation is vital.


Next presentation: Animal Welfare - The Business of Saving Lives - Mike Arms

No comments: