Vet ethics: guardian dogs

I recently attended the annual AVA conference in Melbourne. In one of the talks, Chris Johnson, a Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Tasmania, discussed the use of so-called guardian dogs to protect livestock on Australian farms. This idea involves a new approach to a longstanding animal welfare and farming problem.

Livestock such as sheep and lambs are sometimes lost to predation from foxes, dingoes and wild dogs. A traditional approach to this problem is to lethally cull potential offenders. Methods of culling include shooting and baiting with poisons. The 1080 poison causes muscle tremors, convulsions and death. Few people would doubt that baits have significant welfare implications.

Yet predation of livestock also has welfare consequences. The mauling of lambs not only harms the lambs but also creates great anxiety for the farmers, both because of concern for their animals and for their own livelihoods. Continue reading Vet ethics: guardian dogs