Author(s): Hgsen HR, Er C, Di Nardo A, Dalla Villa P
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Abstract Since 1991, Italian free-roaming dogs have been under government protection and euthanasia is restricted by law. Management measures are regulated at the regional level and include: kennelling, adoptions, conversion of stray dogs into block dogs, and population control of owned dogs. "Block dogs" are free-roaming dogs that have been collected by the veterinary services, microchipped, sterilised, vaccinated, and released under the responsibility of the local municipalities. The present paper describes a cost-benefit model for different management options and applies it to two provinces in Abruzzo, central Italy. The model considers welfare, nuisance and direct costs to the municipality. Welfare is quantified based on the expert opinions of 60 local veterinarians, who were asked to assign a score for each dog category according to the five freedoms: freedom from pain, physical discomfort, disease, fear, and freedom to express normal behaviour. Nuisance was assessed only for comparisons between management options, using the number of free-roaming dogs per inhabitant as a proxy indicator. A community dog population model was constructed to predict the effect of management on the different subpopulations of dogs during a ten-year period. It is a user-friendly deterministic model in Excel, easily adaptable to different communities to assess the impact of their dog management policy on welfare, nuisance and direct monetary cost. We present results for Teramo and Pescara provinces. Today's management system is compared to alternative models, which evaluate the effect of specific interventions. These include either a 10\% yearly increase in kennel capacity, an increase in adoptions from kennels, a doubling of the capture of stray dogs, or a stabilisation of the owned dog population. Results indicate that optimal management decisions are complex because welfare, nuisance and monetary costs may imply conflicting interventions. Nevertheless, they clearly indicate that management actions that would act on dog ownership patterns to reduce the number of free-roaming dogs would have the most favourable outcomes. These include reducing the reproductive capacity of the owned dog population, stronger enforcement of mandatory dog identification, reducing abandonment and increasing adoptions. This would increase welfare and free resources for implementing public campaigns. Block dogs may be an important intermediary means to reduce stray dogs, but adoption would be preferable. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Prev Vet Med
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals