welfare assessment

The development of the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for donkeys

The donkey population has increased in the last 10 years, with an estimated 50 million donkeys currently worldwide. Donkey welfare, meanwhile, is an increasing global concern that receives close public scrutiny. However, multiple challenges are surrounding how donkey welfare is assessed and recorded. The Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) project is the first project, funded by the European Commission, intended to improve donkey welfare by developing a scientifically sound and practical on-farm welfare assessment protocol. The present study describes the procedure for the development of the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for donkeys: 1) selection of promising welfare indicators; 2) research to cover gaps in knowledge; 3) stakeholder consultation; 4) testing the prototype protocol on-farm. The proposed two-level strategy improved on-farm feasibility, while the AWIN donkey app enables the standardized collection of data with prompt results. Although limitations are linked with a relatively small reference population, the AWIN welfare assessment protocol represents the first scientific and standardized approach to evaluate donkey welfare on-farm.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output

Quantifying poor working equid welfare in Nepalese brick kilns using a welfare assessment tool

Background

Across Asia the brick-kiln industry is expanding. In Nepal, urban dwelling has increased in recent years, raising requirement for low-cost, mass produced bricks to meet the population needs. Working equids (WEs) play a key role in non-mechanised kilns. Assessing the welfare of these equids is the starting point to addressing concerns. In line with One Welfare principles, the health and welfare of animals, people and the kiln environment are interlinked.

Materials and methods

In December 2019, 119 WEs were assessed in seven brick kilns in three districts of Nepal, using the Equid Assessment Research and Scoping tool, developed by The Donkey Sanctuary. The objective was to measure welfare at the start of the brick kiln season.

Results

Horses were the predominant species of WE. Hazardous housing and environments were seen in all kilns. Behaviour responses were mixed. Owner responses and animal examination indicated poor working conditions. Signs of harmful practice were evident in most animals. The majority were underweight, with poor general health, skin alterations and musculoskeletal issues.

Conclusion

The welfare of equids prior to starting brick kiln work is poor, posing significant concerns for the actual working period. Intervention to enhance health and welfare is required.

Publication date
Country

Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS): the development and implementation of a new equid welfare assessment and monitoring tool

The assessment of animal welfare poses numerous challenges, yet an emerging approach is the consolidation of existing knowledge into new frameworks which can offer standardised approaches to welfare assessment across a variety of contexts. Multiple tools exist for measuring the welfare of equids, but such tools have typically been developed for specific contexts. There is no ‘one size fits all’ which means that resulting datasets are generally non-comparable, creating a barrier to knowledge-sharing and collaboration between the many organisations working to improve equid welfare around the globe. To address this, we developed the Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool, which incorporates pre-existing validated welfare assessment methods alongside new welfare indicators to deliver a larger and more comprehensive series of welfare indicators than currently exists, creating a single resource that can be used to assess equid welfare in any context. We field-trialled three welfare assessment protocols within the EARS tool, and applied these to welfare assessment of equids in a variety of contexts across nineteen countries. The EARS tool proved a useful, versatile and rapid method for collecting welfare assessment data and we collected 7464 welfare assessments in a period of fifteen months. We evaluate the EARS tool and provide ideas for future development.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
2
Start page
297
Publication date
Research output

Documenting the welfare and role of working equids in rural communities of Portugal and Spain

Recently, the need for a more holistic approach to welfare assessment has been highlighted. This is particularly pertinent in the case of working equids who provide vital support for human livelihoods, often in low- to middle-income countries, yet suffer from globally low standards of welfare. This study aimed to provide insight into the welfare status and traditional use of working equids in rural Western European communities using the new EARS welfare tool, designed to provide a broad view of the welfare of working equids and the context in which they are found. Other questions on the topics of equid management practices, social transmission of expertise, environmental stressors, and traditions, alongside physical and behavioural welfare assessments were also included to explore the impact of these wide-ranging factors on an understudied population of working equids. The protocol was trialled on 60 working equid owners from communities in Portugal and Spain where, despite the decline in traditional agricultural practices and livestock keeping, donkeys and mules remain working animals. Many owners stated that the help donkeys provided was invaluable, and donkeys were considered to be important for both farming and daily life. However, participants also recognised that the traditional agricultural way of life was dying out, providing insights into the traditional practices, community structure, and beliefs of equid owners. Questions investigating the social networks and social transfer of information within the villages were effective in finding local sources of equid knowledge. Overall, welfare was deemed fair, and the protocol enabled the identification of the most prevalent welfare problems within the communities studied, in this case obesity and the use of harmful practices. The findings suggest that the new protocol was feasible and detail how contextual factors may influence equid welfare. Increasing understanding of the cultural context, social structure, and attitudes within a community, alongside more traditional investigations of working practices and animal management, may, in the future, help to make equid welfare initiatives more effective.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
5
Start page
790
Publication date
Research output
Country

Comparison of working equid welfare across three regions of Mexico

Background

Factors affecting working equid welfare are wide-ranging and reflect cultural, economic and climatic conditions, the type of work equids are used for, and individual differences in the practices of their handlers. In Mexico working equids are widely used for facilitating agricultural activities, however, welfare issues are common.

Objectives

To assess working equids across three communities in Mexico, identify predominant welfare problems and document how these problems vary across locations and associated working roles and species type.

Study design

Cross-sectional survey.

Methods

The study combined the administration of a wide-ranging questionnaire to equid handlers/owners and a welfare assessment of their animal. 120 equid owners were asked about their equid management practices, the working conditions and health status of their animal. The welfare of their equids (56 donkeys, 7 mules, 57 horses) was assessed by evaluating body condition, signs of illness or injury, and behavioural indicators.

Results

Welfare varied by species, working role, sex and location. The poorest welfare was seen in one of the two arid regions (the third location having a tropical climate). Donkeys had poorer welfare than horses, and equids used for packing had poorer welfare than those used for riding and agroforestry. Overall poor body condition and wounds were the most common problems seen.

Main limitations

Work type, species type and location strongly co-varied, thus the impact of each factor could not be assessed in isolation. The sample size was relatively small.

Conclusions

Results showed significant regional variations in welfare, suggesting that environmental and/or cultural variations are producing a major effect on welfare.

Published online ahead of print.

Publication date
Country

Use of Animal Welfare assessment protocols (AWIN) and health data to monitor and improve herd health in donkeys

Presentation date

Introduction

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 2,000 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's 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.

Methods

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

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

Discussion

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 will illustrate 4 quarters of data presented graphically.

References

  1. The Donkey Sanctuary mission staement, accessed 12 December 2017.
  2. The Donkey Sanctuary Animal Management System (Microsoft Dynamic CRM), introduced October 2015 Sarah Tulloch, AMS Manager/Project Lead.
  3. AWIN Protocol for Donkeys, accessed 12 December 2017.
  4. Animal Welfare Act 2006, accessed 12 December 2017.

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

Presentation date

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.

Methods

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

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

Discussion

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.

EARS - Equid assessment research & scoping tool: a new approach to analyse, understand and respond to equid welfare problems worldwide

Presentation date

The capacity for decision-making and intervention in any project related to equid welfare should be based on a knowledge of the real issues affecting these animals worldwide, regardless of the tasks performed. This approach is even more important when new emerging economic activities around equids - e.g. donkey skin trade - are particularly challenging in terms of animal welfare.

The Equid Assessment Research & Scoping (EARS) Tool is a questionnaire developed by The Donkey Sanctuary, in collaboration with World Horse Welfare, with the main purpose to provide reliable information about the general health and welfare of equids worldwide. EARS is primarily designed to obtain individual information about an equid and its surrounding environment, or from a group of equids in similar conditions, through cumulative repetition. It is organized into 18 indicators, each one divided in to different categories, and each category with a specific set of questions. The EARS Tool allows the development of different protocols, by choosing the correct set of questions that best fit the inherent needs.

Data collection and preliminary analysis of data in a simple, fast and effective way are also a central aspect of EARS, by using open source software (OSS) throughout the data collection cycle: Open Data Kit Collect to log information in the field; R to parse, analyze and filter this information; and R Shiny to disseminate the results through dashboards. These OSS products allow off-line data collection with initial overview results presented as soon as the user uploads their surveys when back online.

This new tool contributes to a better understanding of the underlying reasons behind poor equid welfare, and allows the design of evidence-based strategies that not only identify and tackle the real causes of problems, but also allow the organizations to measure the impact of decisions taken over time.

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