BOOKS: A Template for Change

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:

A Template for Change by Carolyn Menteith
Jointly published by
Dogs Trust and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
Free download from <>.

A Template for Change succinctly presents
the case for introducing neuter/return to replace
catch-and-kill dog control, and describes every
aspect of how to do neuter/return, based mostly
on the work of Robert Smith in Oradea, Romania
and Istanbul, Turkey.
As a free download, the price is right
for anyone anywhere. Introduced at the October
2008 International Companion Animal Welfare
Conference, A Template for Change is already in
use worldwide– but this excellent handbook
contains one serious flaw.

To estimate the dog population of a
community, Menteith advises, “Have a good look
yourself, but also talk to local vets, animal
health or pest control officers or any animal
welfare organizations that are working in the
area, and then make an educated guess. Then go
out and catch 10% of that number at a variety of
sitesÅ  Mark them with non-toxic paint and release
themÅ Go out to the same sites, at the same time
of day, a week later and count the dogs you see
(as many as possible but at least 75% of the
total you caught originally). Make a note of how
many you count and how many of those are marked.
“You can then calculate roughly how many
street dogs there are…Total population = number
marked times number counted, divided by the
number of marked dogs found by the second count.”
For example, Menteith elaborates, “You
have estimated the population to be 2000. Catch
and mark 200 (10%) at several sites. Then count
150 random animals at the same site. You find
that you have marked 14. So the calculation is:
total population equals 200 times [the product
of] 150 divided by 14. Which means the total
population is 2,142.”
In that example, the total population
would actually be 2,143. That is close enough
for government work, and this estimating method
is generally accurate, but it is also wildly
A person who takes a good look at a
street dog population using an intelligently
planned line transect can get similar findings in
a fraction of the time.
Talking to “local vets, animal health or
pest control officers or any animal welfare
organizations that are working in the area” will
in my experience usually produce a guesstimate
that may be as much as 10 times too high, as in
the projections of the Coalition for a Dog-Free
Bangalore. To catch 10% of their projection,
one would have to catch 100% of the street dogs
in Bangalore.
Once any street dog is caught, the
likelihood of catching the dog again is slim, so
the census taker had better sterilize and
vaccinate each dog immediately. This requires
having the planned neuter/ return program up and
running–but if the program is operating, it is
past the need to do a preliminary assessment.
Marking the dogs with non-toxic paint
brings additional perils. Many dogs will lick
the paint off immediately–and hide from the
painter. People may think the painting is cruel,
is marking dogs to be killed, or means the dogs
are diseased.
Doing line transects requires walking
across the community from outskirt to outskirt,
by several different routes, counting dogs and
then multiplying the total seen by the total area
of the community.
In a January 2007 test in a suburb of
Ahmedabad, India, I counted 67 dogs in a
two-hour set of line transects. A two-day
door-to-door count by the Animal Help Foundation
later found 74, meaning that my line transects
achieved 90% accuracy in about 10% of the time.
In a similar test in Subotica, Serbia,
volunteers coordinated by Slavica Mazak Beslic
recently found 1,489 street dogs on their first
line transect, and 1,576 on their second. Thus
the low count was 95% of the high count. Either
figure would be about 11% of the officially
estimated pet dog population in Subotica.
Officially, Subotica has about one dog per 7.5
people, comparable to most of the rest of
Europe–which means that the ratio of street dogs
to pet dogs in Subotica is about twice the
percentage of the U.S. dog population who enter
shelters each year.
In short, if a quick, cheap, simple
estimating method produces estimates that make
sense for the habitat and are close enough to
plan from, why do anything more time-consuming,
expensive, and complicated? Save the effort and
resources for getting the job done. And
download this manual, because the rest of it
will help you.

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