Dog health in indigenous communities
NCCAW Position Statement
NCCAW recognises that animal companionship is of cultural importance to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Dogs are the most important species.
NCCAW is aware that many communities have particular problems in accessing regular veterinary services because of their organisation and remote locations.
Private veterinarians can supply full services including diagnostic procedures, desexing, surgical and medical treatments. Trained environmental health workers can also undertake some activities, including treatments for parasites, euthanasia and medical treatment under a veterinarian's direction.
NCCAW supports training and employing Aboriginal, environmental health workers with animal health program responsibilities, and recognises the important roles they play in community communication, consultation and education.
NCCAW is aware that many communities have experienced the benefits of community-funded, programmed animal health visits.
It is believed most indigenous people welcome this service and the benefits it has for their animals’ health and welfare. Full community consultation, before and during program delivery, is an important part of the operation that is greatly assisted by the liaison of Aboriginal health workers.
Animal health programs are important for improving animal welfare in communities because they:
- treat internal parasite infections, of which some may cause human health problems
- treat external parasite infections and assist with skin disease
- castrate male dogs resulting in fewer dogfights
- spay female dogs resulting in fewer puppies and better bitch health
- euthanase suffering and unwanted animals
- provide advice on pet health and management.
The program also has social and health benefits to the community. A dog health program may also be extended to include other species of animals present.
NCCAW believes a regular animal health program is very beneficial to the health and welfare of dogs in indigenous communities.
To be effective, the program requires a minimum of three parasite treatments a year. Veterinary input to the program is essential.
The level of visits by veterinarians will depend on the level of support given by the Aboriginal environmental health workers, the degree of community participation, and the composition of the dog population.
Reference: 'Dog Health In Indigenous Communities': proceedings of a conference held in Darwin in 1993 as part of the Western Pacific Veterinary Conference: editor Jack Shield QDPI Cairns 1996.
This Position Statement was first published in April 2000 and was reviewed by NCCAW on 20 February 2008. NCCAW made the decision to retain it without amendment.
24 Jun 2008