Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Ethical considerations for the use of livestock guardian dogs as control tools (#108)

Huw Nolan 1 , Amanda Doughty 1 , Robert McDowell 1
  1. University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

Livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) are often considered a continuous, mild and non-lethal form of predator control. As such, they have enjoyed a reputation as a passive yet effective management tool, with minimal welfare impacts on predators and the ecosystem. In Australia, LGDs are used as a control tool to defend livestock from wild Canids (dingoes, domestic dogs, their hybrids and foxes); however, a full assessment of the welfare issues and impacts of this scenario has not been undertaken. This welfare assessment used a cross-disciplinary approach combining philosophy and science to integrate possible hypothetical scenarios with data from published literature. We adapted an established Five Domains Model of welfare assessment (originally devised by Mellor and Reid) to evaluate the use of LGDs as a control tool in Australia. This model focuses on nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental state. We constructed hypothetical scenarios and pursued their logical arguments; from the best-case scenarios to their welfare implications. Additionally, we manipulated the effects on the variables within the domains and assessed the interactions between theses variables. In each best-case scenario we constructed, there were unavoidable ethical issues currently being overlooked. Surprisingly, even under the best scenarios, LGDs still had considerable welfare issues and impacts on dingoes, comparable to strychnine poisoning. While we are not arguing for the cessation of LGD use in Australia, these welfare and ethical issues need to be addressed to more comprehensively defend LGD use.