The Effectiveness Of Catch Neuter Return Programmes In Stray Dogs

08 Oct 2020

Thesis by Phoebe Abrahams

Fledgling Byte by George Peart

Take-home message: Changes in surgery type, individual surgeon and time of day all had significant effects on surgery duration and post-operative welfare in male dogs undergoing neuter surgery.

Catch neuter return (CNR) programmes are regarded as a welfare-friendly way of keeping stray dog populations at manageable levels. They involve catching stray animals and surgically removing their gonads to prevent them from reproducing when they are released back onto the street. Historically the surgeries of choice have been to either remove the testicles in males or the uterus and ovaries in females. This study aimed to understand if vasectomy, which cuts off sperm movement instead of removing the testicles entirely, is a viable alternative method to control dog populations.

This study compared the health and welfare and speed of recovery of dogs undergoing the primary neutering technique; gonadectomy (removal of the ovaries/testes), and vasectomy, which is rarely used in practice. The trial used a catch neuter release programme in the city of Bila Tserkva, Ukraine to collect data on the neutering of 152 free roaming dogs over 10 days.

The surgeries were carried out by two vets with experience in gonadectomy (removal of the ovaries/testes), the more commonly used neutering technique. Another vet was brought in to train them to carry out vasectomies at the start of the 10 day catch neuter release period. They then split Bila Tserkva into East and West portions, with all the dogs caught in the East being vasectomised and the dogs in the West having their testicles removed. Following each of the procedures, animal behaviour and pain assessments were scored. The recovery time for each animal prior to being released was also recorded.

The study found that vasectomies took longer, with an average of 23 minutes per procedure whereas gonadectomy took 5 minutes. There was also a difference in surgery time for each of the vets. Interestingly, surgery time increased as the procedures were carried out later in the day. This suggests that the vets became more tired and slower as time went on. Finally, the results showed that there was a link between surgery duration and recovery time. The dogs which were operated on for a shorter time tended to recover more quickly from the operation.

This study was carried out by Phoebe Abrahams – Winner of the BSAS Undergraduate Thesis of the Year Award. Strays (free roamers) make up 75% of the global dog population so it is important to critically analyse current population control methods and constantly look for improvements. This thesis is fantastic because it places animal welfare as top priority whilst accounting for real world factors such as human fatigue and the cost behind each procedure. This study is the first of its kind which has highlighted key areas for potential future research to improve the effectiveness of CNR intervention programmes.

George Peart Graduate Management Trainee at Genus ABS

George is one of the BSAS Early Council Members. He is training with genetics company Genus ABS, focusing on improved livestock production with novel genetics and management systems.

Click here to see Phoebe Abraham's full thesis