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A survey of opinions towards dog and cat management policy issues in New Zealand

Authors: Walker J, Zito S, Dale A, Gates MC
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 315-322, Nov 2019
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Animal type: Dog, Companion animal, Cat
Article class: Scientific Article

Aims: To describe the opinions of respondents to an online survey on desexing, microchipping and pet registration, and the management of cats, and aggressive dogs in New Zealand.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted online from 18–22 June 2015 using a permission-based panel of New Zealand residents aged ≥18 years. Questions included demographics of respondents, number of dogs and cats owned, and opinions on desexing, microchipping, pet registration, management of cats and aggressive dogs.

Results: Of the 1,572 survey respondents, 216 (13.7%) owned ≥1 dog and ≥1 cat, 227 (14.4%) owned ≥1 dog and no cats, 480 (30.5%) owned ≥1 cat and no dogs, and 559 (35.6%) did not own any pets. The majority of dogs (456/613; 74.8%) and cats (974/1,045; 93.2%) were desexed. The most common reasons for not desexing pets were cost, feeling that it was not needed, or keeping the dog for breeding. Of the 613 dogs, 557 (90.9%) were registered with the local council, and 434 (71.0%) were microchipped, but only 290 (47.3%) were registered in the national database. Of the 1,045 cats, 326 (31.2%) were microchipped and 279/486 (57.4%) owners felt that it was unnecessary. Of the 1,572 respondents, 947 (60.2%) were unaware of stray cats in their local community, and 479 (30.5%) stated that local councils, or animal welfare organisations (546/1,572; 34.7%) should be responsible for managing strays. Among all 1,572 respondents, 787 (50.1%) thought stray cats should be assessed and subjected to euthanasia. Compared with non-pet owners, a lower percentage of cat owners agreed that cats should be confined (p < 0.001). When asked to choose the most appropriate course of action for dogs that had bitten people or other animals, 849 (54.0%) and 820 (52.5%) respondents, respectively, agreed that the dog should be assessed by an expert who would then determine the appropriate action. Compared with non-pet owners, a lower percentage of dog owners supported registration and education of dog owners, aggressive dogs being destroyed, and giving more power to local councils (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: The results highlight opportunities to improve owner compliance with desexing, microchipping and registration of dogs and cats. Opinions towards management of stray cat and aggressive dogs varied between pet owners and non-owners. Further research is needed to better understand how to engage the public in important dog and cat management policy issues.

Keywords: Dog bites, stray cats, microchipping, dog registration, desexing

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