‘Don’t put the cart before the mule!’ Challenging assumptions regarding health-related treatment practices of working equid owners in Northern India

This paper challenges assumptions that the health management of working equids among some of India’s poorest communities is mainly dependent upon income, economic influence, or access to veterinary services. Using a mixed-methods approach, hierarchies of treatment practices are revealed through an examination of the ‘lived experience’ of equid owners in brick kilns and construction sites in northern India. Semi-structured interviews with 37 equid owners and corresponding livelihood surveys, combined with data from two focus groups with professional animal health practitioners and the welfare data of 63 working equids collected using the Equid Assessment, Research, and Scoping (EARS) tool, contributed to the findings of the study. Four principal influencing factors were found to affect the decision-making practices of equid owners. Infrastructural factors, community characteristics and experience, owners’ characteristics and experience, and economic factors all impact the belief structures of equid owners. However, without verifying the validity of the treatment measures being employed, some animals are at risk from hazardous treatment behaviours. By understanding decision-making using the theory of planned behaviour, the findings of this study can provide a crucial contribution to informing future interventions involved in the health management and welfare of working equids.

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Use of the Modified AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol combined with a novel computer-based Animal Management System as a tool for managing herd health in donkeys

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The Donkey Sanctuary is a global welfare charity whose mission is "To transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide". In the UK, The Donkey Sanctuary cares for over 2000 donkeys on a number of farms varying in size from 250-580 animals. The farms aim to rehome approximately 10% of their herd annually to guardian (private) homes or donkey assisted therapy centres. The farms also provide a show case for our work to visiting public and professionals. Welfare of the donkeys on the farms is critical to the credibility of The Donkey Sanctuary.

The veterinary team monitors the herd health to maintain high welfare standards. Traditional input consisted of weekly visits, annual vaccination, dental treatment, parasite control, and a reactive approach to illness. Since the introduction of The Donkey Sanctuary Animal Management System and Animal welfare assessment protocols(AWIN), the team have been able to use evidence -based criteria (EBC) to assess farm herd health.


Every four months 1) the AMS data base is interrogated supplying information on relevant queries including Body Condition Score, Lameness, Colic, Hyperlipaemia, Sarcoids, Infectious disease, and Mortality rate, 2) an on farm welfare assessment is performed following the stage 1 AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators) protocol for donkeys.

Resource based and animal- based indicators are assessed on a randomly selected 10% of the herd by a team including vet, farm manager and grooms. Different animals are selected at each visit by using the farm named list of donkeys.


Results are recorded via excel, graphical representation and written documentation. The results can be sub-divided in many ways depending upon clinical need.


Using EBC and AWIN provides the vet team with tools to pro-actively monitor donkey health, refine management practices, re-direct budgets and track progress. Welfare can be bench marked and improvements aimed for. Monitoring / recording welfare data allows The Donkey Sanctuary to be compliant with national legislation. Although a number of welfare assessment tools are available AWIN is validated and straightforward to use. The poster illustrates 4 quarters of data presented graphically.

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