A combination of approaches is required for a successful dog population management program. Planning an intervention comprised of these approaches should follow an initial assessment phase and analysis of the local dog population to ensure the approaches are appropriate.
- Photo courtesy of Serengeti Carnivore Disease Project
Currently advocated components in addition to rabies vaccination include:
Implementation of education programs for responsible dog ownership, which should improve the level of guardianship over individual dogs, ultimately leading to healthier and safer (vaccinated) dogs that are not abandoned. Registration and identification of dogs is also used to formally and physically establish ownership. Read here about laws and recommendations available for dog identification and registry. Commonly used methods for dog identification can be permanent (e.g. microchips and tattoos) or temporary (e.g. collars and tags) and they are described here and here.
Legislative measures (e.g. tie-up orders, abandonment legislation, mandatory registration, identification and regular rabies vaccination, etc.), which you can find in the legislation section.
Intervention aiming at controlling dog reproduction. The currently recommended technique for reproductive control is surgical sterilization, which requires trained personnel, infrastructure, equipment (listed here), appropriate anaesthesia and pain management. Research is currently being carried out to develop safe and effective methods for chemical sterilisation or contraception. Click here for information on non-surgical methods for controlling the reproduction of dogs and cats and here for specific advice on chemical castration. A non-invasive and inexpensive method is isolation of females in oestrus which could be implemented by dog owners through education. Additional vaccinations and parasite control are often provided alongside sterilisation to improve the health of individual dogs, hence enhancing owner interest in engaging with the intervention, increasing the value of individual dogs to reduce abandonment and reducing population turnover by improving survival.
Removal of unwanted dogs for re-homing. Needs for opening re-homing centres must be carefully evaluated and when a re-homing centre is required in a given area building and managing it must follow published guidelines, provided here and here. As an alternative to rehoming centres, networks of foster homes involving dedicated volunteers have been successfully created in some parts of Asia, as described here. Euthanasia may be required for dogs that are not suitable for rehoming or release back into the community due to health or behavioural reasons. Euthanasia only deals with the symptom of a population management problem and not the cause, so must always be used in conjunction with other approaches and never in isolation. As discussed in the section on culling above, this must always be carried out humanely.
Habitat control. Areas without adequate garbage disposal are especially prone to large populations of roaming dogs. In specific areas where dogs are not tolerated (e.g. schools and hospitals) access to these resources can be restricted using measures such as animal proof bins and regular removal of garbage and education to prevent purposeful feeding and careless disposal. Opening of any new sites that could provide high value resources such as slaughter houses must include regulations to control disposal of waste. Any significant alteration in access to resources must be done with care to ensure that dogs are not left without food leading to greater movement of dogs, potentially higher levels of competition and aggression over food and ultimately starving of the dogs. In general, any changes to habitat should be localised, the impact on the dog population should be carefully monitored, and large scale habitat changes should not be used as a method of population management.