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Experts on dog population management have urged the creation of a technical forum to tackle knowledge gaps and create more informed policy on the world’s canine population.
Delegates made the proposal at a recent meeting on dog population management in Banna, Italy, jointly hosted by WSPA, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Italian organisation, the Istituto G. Caporale Teramo, with technical support from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The meeting hosted a group of experts from different disciplines and across the globe to address the challenges of dog population management, both domestic and stray, in a holistic way.
Different participants from academic institutions, government authorities, non-governmental bodies, public health institutions, and intergovernmental organizations agreed on the need to establish a international technical forum on dog population management. This body will be coordinated by the FAO and open to all relevant players in dog management around the world.
“The establishment of a technical body able to advise on dog population management issues throughout the world is a very much needed initiative,” says Elly Hiby Scientific Advisor at WSPA. “We also hope it would provide a major boost to integrating animal welfare into canine population control and a move away from mass culling globally.”
The need for such a body becomes ever more essential as dogs become more popular as pets and numerous as a whole. There are now an estimated 500 million dogs worldwide, whilst ownership is on the rise in developing nations. For example, Vietnam saw a 47% increase in dog ownership between 2003 and 2007.
The call for improved dog population management is driven by the need to ensure the welfare of animals, while reducing the health and safety risks that dogs may present to people from dog bites and zoonoses. To achieve this, it is necessary to address the whole population and not only stray animals, often the only portion of the canine population considered in population management policy. It is also vital to integrate dog population management into a comprehensive public health global strategy, delegates said.
“In this meeting we have found a particularly close link between animal welfare and human well being. There is an increasing acceptance that animal suffering is not a necessary cost to achieve benefits for people”, Hiby says. “As we’ve seen in our work around the world, once communities are engaged, with clear communications and education where needed, people will invariably choose humane and sustainable alternatives to control methods that causes animal suffering.”