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ACC&D Think Tanks

Population Dynamics Modeling and Field Studies to Improve Development of Technologies for Non-surgical Sterilization of Cats and Dogs

June 8-10, 2011

“Do trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs for free-roaming cats effectively reduce numbers of animals?”

“Can street dog populations really be managed with animal birth control (ABC)?”

“What proportion of animals must we sterilize to see the population decline?”

“Does treatment need to be permanent in order to have an impact, or could a multi-year contraceptive help with population control?”

These are all extremely important questions, and the reality is that to date the animal welfare field has not had the data or capability to provide definitive answers. To be sure, there is much anecdotal evidence that TNR and ABC work, but there are also instances where they have had unsatisfactory impacts. Moreover, today most programs proceed without first defining a clear, measurable population goal, and without good estimates of the intensity, scope, and duration of effort required to achieve this goal.

ACC&D strongly believes that the animal welfare field needs more objective data and models to improve the efficacy of humane population control. In doing so, we would be wise to draw lessons from the wildlife biology community, which utilizes advanced simulation modeling tools and translates modeling outcomes into practical field applications. Use of such models for cat and dog populations could allow us to better design and measure progress of dog and cat population control programs. Computer simulation models can be designed to capture the contingent cause-and-effect feedback loops (such as density-dependence) that exist in complex, real-world systems.

Toward this goal, ACC&D convened 16 experts to investigate how computer modeling and field studies adapted from wildlife biology could be applied to cat and dog population management design. The work and brainstorming done at the June 2011 Think Tank (whose final report can be viewed here) were discussed at a National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) meeting in November 2011. The idea for a larger project to create a model evaluating different interventions on free-roaming cat populations was also borne from the Think Tank. This project has became one of ACC&D’s Flagship Initiatives.

Thank you to the Leonard X. Bosack & Bette M. Kruger Foundation and PetSmart Charities for sponsoring the Think Tank, and to the ASPCA® and Boehringer Ingelheim for funding next steps.

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