The role, importance and impact of veterinary drug retail outlets (VDRO) on the welfare of equines and their owners in India

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In spite of their official classification under “livestock”, and the significant role they play in the livelihoods of millions in the developing world, equines and those who depend upon them for their livelihoods tend to be ignored within the research agenda. It is also the case that other livestock are often valued over working equines due to their 'direct link to food and nutritional security'. Equine welfare in this case, with respect to veterinary treatment, might therefore suffer as a consequence of this placement of value. Couple this with the fact that the majority of donkey and mule owners in developing countries live in marginalised or poor communities and it becomes clear that the medicating practices of equine owners require further investigation to understand how they make decisions regarding the veterinary treatment of their animals, and who they source their medication and advice from when their animals require medications. This research will attempt to fill some of these gaps in knowledge.


Fieldwork focussed largely on communities working in brick kilns but also incorporated some working in construction. A small proportion of the research aimed to capture any differences between sites where Donkey Sanctuary India (DSI) partners had provided veterinary interventions and advice and sites not visited by DSI. A mixed methods approach was identified as most appropriate in capturing the lived experience of donkey owners as well as members of the veterinary retail outlet workforce, and was undertaken through semi-structured interviews (enabling quantitative and qualitative data capture), focus groups, patient simulation method, knowledge assessment through the use of vignettes. Both donkey owners/users as well as a purposive sample of VDRO workforce members and veterinary service providers was recruited for participation. Equine welfare was measured using the Equid Assessment Research Scoping (EARS) tool. Videos were also taken of each equid/ group of equids for qualitative behavioural assessment. Fieldwork was carried out in February/ March due to their relative seasonal reliability in terms of weather, as well as corresponding with the early brick kiln season in the specified study location.