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Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217

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Preventive Veterinary Medicine

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/prevetmed

Owned dog demography in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala

Andrew S. Pulczer ∗ , Andria Jones-Bitton, David Waltner-Toews, Cate E. Dewey
Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: A thorough knowledge of the dog demography should be an integral element in the plan-
Received 29 April 2011 ning, implementation and evaluation of dog population control measures. In May 2008, a
Received in revised form 26 July 2012
door-to-door household census of human and owned canine populations was conducted
Accepted 27 July 2012
in 12 contiguous neighbourhoods in the town of Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala.
During the census, household and footpath data were recorded using a handheld Global
Positioning System (GPS), and used to create digital census route maps, and perimeter and
Demography area estimates of the study region. Approximately 99% of all households (472/476) partic-
Census ipated in the census, representing 2461 people in the overall estimated study region area
Population estimation of 80 hectares (ha). A total of 382 dogs were owned by 50.8% (240/472) of households,
Global Positioning System yielding means of 0.8 (382/472) owned dogs per household and 1.6 (382/240) dogs per
Guatemala dog-owning household. Of the total 382 owned dogs, 88.2% (337/382) were aged three
months or older; of these, 68.5% (231/337) were reported as not normally being confined
on the household property during the average day, and 9.7% (24/247) of the males and
none of the females (0/81) were reported to be neutered. Of the households that owned
female dogs, 89.7% (52/58) and 91.4% (53/58) reported that they would have females sur-
gically or non-surgically neutered, respectively, if these services were available. Of the
households that owned male dogs, 90.3% (176/195) and 92.3% (180/195) reported that
they would have males surgically or non-surgically neutered, respectively, if these ser-
vices were available. Approximately 72% (238/330) of owned dogs were vaccinated for
rabies, and 80% (187/238) of these were males. The owned dog male:female ratio was
2.6:1 (275/107), the owned dog:human ratio was 1:6.4 (382/2461), and the absolute den-
sity was 478 (382/0.80) owned dogs/km2 . This knowledge of the owned dog demography
was generated using simple means and has been of direct use in support of, and as base-
line data for the planning, implementation and evaluation of subsequent dog population
control measures in this population; they may be of similar use in other comparable
© 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction injuries and environmental pollution and sources of

pathogenic organisms via dog wastes and carcasses (Matter
Globally, human–dog interactions cause significant and Daniels, 2000, p. 19). Dogs are associated with over
social, economic and human health costs. Public health 60 zoonoses (Matter and Daniels, 2000, p. 19; Reece,
problems linked with dogs include zoonoses, contact 2005), and those of significant concern include rabies
(WHO/WSPA, 1990, p. 11; Matter and Daniels, 2000, p.
19; WHO, 2004, p. 47), echinococcosis and toxocariasis
∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 289 624 1592; (WHO/WSPA, 1990, p. 11; Matter and Daniels, 2000, p.
mobile: +1 647 297 4622. 19). Bite wounds may be associated with significant scar-
E-mail address: pulczer@vetmobile.ca (A.S. Pulczer). ring and disfigurement, infection, pain, anxiety and medical

0167-5877/$ – see front matter © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
210 A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217

care costs (Matter and Daniels, 2000, p. 19). Dogs can also Cuchumatán, six villages and 69 smaller rural villages. The
limit daily human activities via fear, intimidation and phys- town of Todos Santos Cuchumatán includes 21 neighbour-
ical attacks (Matter and Daniels, 2000, p. 18). Dogs may also hoods (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, 2004), 11
have a negative impact on tourism, livestock and wildlife, of which are located within 0.5 km of the centrally located
and thus, the local economy (Matter and Daniels, 2000, town centre and neighbourhood, El Centro. Together, El
p. 19). Additional social problems associated with dogs Centro and the 11 neighbourhoods surrounding it make up
include road accidents, fighting, noise, bitches in heat, and the study region within the town of Todos Santos Cuchu-
uncontrolled breeding (Matter and Daniels, 2000, p. 18; matán, hereafter referred to as Todos Santos.
Jackman and Rowan, 2007, p. 55). Finally, dog overpopu- The present study arose as a result of the assistance
lation is a contributing factor in the welfare problems of requested of VWB/VSF-Canada. The objective of the study
the dog population itself (WHO/WSPA, 1990, p. 9; Matter was to provide owned dog baseline data using simple
and Daniels, 2000, p. 18; Jackman and Rowan, 2007, p. means, for the planning, implementation and evaluation
58), including disease, parasitism, competition for food of subsequent owned dog health and population control
and starvation, repeated pregnancies, human abuse and measures by: (1) conducting a household census to charac-
harassment, motor vehicle accidents, abandonment, and terize the owned dog population, (2) estimating the owned
the inhumane killing of dogs (Jackman and Rowan, 2007, dog:human ratio and the absolute densities of owned dogs
pp. 55–62). within the study region, and (3) evaluating household
Wherever dogs present risks to human health, a attitudes regarding canine neutering using surgical and
thorough knowledge of the demography of the dog pop- non-surgical options.
ulation should be an integral element in the planning,
implementation and evaluation of dog population con- 2. Materials and methods
trol measures (WHO/WSPA, 1990, p. 9), so that targeted
components of these measures can be efficiently utilized 2.1. Study region neighbourhood selection
(WHO/WSPA, 1990, pp. 80–82). Nevertheless, estimating
dog demographics is challenging, especially in econom- The study region neighbourhood selection was made
ically disadvantaged communities, where high numbers after consultations with the municipal mayor and town
of poorly supervised dogs are often present (Matter and neighbourhood leaders. El Centro and the 11 contigu-
Daniels, 2000, p. 18), and in many developing countries ous neighbourhoods within 0.5 km of it, formed the study
where, on average, more than 50% of dogs are poorly super- region of Todos Santos. Specifically, these 12 study neigh-
vised and free-ranging (Matter and Daniels, 2000, p. 45). bourhoods were: El Centro, Angle, Che Cruz, Chiquimpic, El
It is in these resource and infrastructure-poor communi- Calvario, Las Ruinas, Los Jimenez, Los Matias, Los Mendoza,
ties that the public health, economic and welfare impacts, Los Pablos, Los Perez and Tuj Cuc. Other neighbourhoods
and the need for interventions using simple means may be were excluded from the study region because they were
greatest. at relatively large distances from El Centro (i.e. >1 km from
Several of the abovementioned issues with dogs El Centro border), rural, and were reported by their neigh-
prompted a United States Peace Corps volunteer living in bourhood leaders to have negligible problems associated
Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala, with approval from with dogs.
the local municipal government, to request assistance from Due to the presence of a single household in Los Perez,
Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans Frontières data from this neighbourhood were combined with the
– Canada (VWB/VSF-Canada) to evaluate and ameliorate adjacent neighbourhood of Los Matias for analyses. Addi-
the risks associated with the perceived high numbers tionally, data from the neighbourhoods of El Calvario and
of dogs in the community. Specifically, the volunteer El Centro were combined for analyses, due to an error of
described anecdotal reports of human fear and intimida- omission during the recording of Global Positioning Sys-
tion by dogs, considerable environmental contamination tem (GPS) data in these two neighbourhoods. Therefore,
from dog waste, dog fighting, and canine attacks on live- 10 neighbourhood groups consisting of the 12 individual
stock. Unfortunately, no other information on the problems neighbourhoods of interest constituted the study region.
associated with dogs was available at the time; there were A related article, borne out of the present study,
no reliable medical or veterinary data, as medical services describes the selection of the study region and details of the
were minimal and veterinary services non-existent in the household census presented here (Lunney et al., 2011). The
community. A related paper, borne out of the study pre- University of Guelph Research Ethics Board approved the
sented here, has since been published that characterizes involvement of human participants in this study (Protocol
some of the problems posed by dogs in this community #08AP007).
including: dog bites to humans, negative perceptions of
dogs in terms of human fear and intimidation, and the abil- 2.2. Door-to-door household census
ity of dogs to transmit diseases to people (Lunney et al.,
2011). A household questionnaire was designed and modi-
Todos Santos Cuchumatán is a municipality in the fied from dog ecology questionnaires (WHO/WSPA, 1990,
Guatemalan Department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, pp. 31–37) to collect data on the neighbourhood, num-
situated in the Cuchumatán Mountains at an elevation of bers of households, numbers of people and owned dogs,
2500 m. The municipality covers an area of approximately as well as dog confinement status, and age and sex cate-
269 km2 and is formed by the Mayan town of Todos Santos gory data for owned dogs. All households within the study
A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217 211

region were included in a door-to-door household census three months or greater) (Matter et al., 2000). These age
during May 6–22, 2008. Since there were no street categories were chosen to be consistent with potential dog
maps, street names, house numbers, or household enu- population control and health and welfare interventions,
meration listings available, local neighbourhood leaders including non-surgical intratesticular injection neutering
accompanied seven trained interviewers to administer the in male dogs and rabies vaccination. An “owned” dog was
household questionnaires. Gender was not applicable in one for whom a person, during the census, stated that they
participant selection and these data were not recorded. Age owned the dog and the dog came to the home to be fed. An
was not a factor in participant selection except with regards owned juvenile to adult dog, reported by the owner as nor-
to consent by an authorized party for minors of less than mally (i.e. on an average day) being physically confined on
16 years of age. If no one was home during the initial visit, the property during the daytime, was deemed a “confined”
households were revisited until the residents participated dog, and was otherwise “unconfined”. Owned puppies less
or refused to participate in the census, or the households than three months of age were deemed confined because
were determined to be unoccupied. The questionnaire was they were routinely observed on the premises in Todos San-
originally written in English and translated into Spanish. As tos, and were therefore considered somewhat sedentary
most residents spoke Mam, the local Mayan language, the and less mobile than older dogs (Matter et al., 2000).
questionnaire was administered orally in either Spanish
or Mam at the preference of the interviewee. The house- 2.5. Statistical analyses
hold census data were entered and analyzed in Microsoft
Excel 2004 for Mac version 11.5.6 (Microsoft Corporation, Descriptive statistics were performed using Microsoft
2004). All data entries were validated by visually com- Excel 2004 for Mac version 11.5.6 (Microsoft Corporation,
paring spreadsheet entries to the original questionnaire 2004). As a near census of the population was achieved,
responses to ensure accuracy. associated confidence intervals were not calculated. How-
ever, odds ratios and associated 95% confidence intervals
2.3. Neighbourhood GPS data, perimeter and area were calculated using R version 2.9.0 (R Development Core
calculations Team, 2009).

During the door-to-door household census, neighbour- 3. Results

hood footpaths and household locations were electroni-
cally recorded as tracks and waypoints respectively, along 3.1. Census participation, household and human data
roads, streets and walking paths using a Garmin Colorado
300 mapping handheld GPS (Garmin International Inc., Of the known 476 inhabited households in the study
2008a). The estimated GPS position error was defined by a region, four were excluded because the owners refused to
95% confidence circle of radius 10 m, such that 95% of posi- participate, with one in Angle, one in Los Jimenez and two
tion estimates would fall within, and 5% would fall outside, in Los Pablos. Therefore, the household census participa-
the 10 m radius circle with the true position at the centre tion rate was 99.2% (472/476), representing 2461 people.
(Garmin International Inc., 2008b). These data were used to Of these 2461 participants, 49.7% (1224/2461) were adults
generate digital neighbourhood routes, using Garmin Map- 18 years of age or older, comprised of 511 men and 713
Source Trip & Waypoint Manager software version 5.00 women. The total reported number of children less than 18
(Garmin International Inc., 2008c). years of age was 1237, however the specific age category
Within the study region, for neighbourhood routes of 13 children are unknown. Of the children with known
where there were no adjacent routes within 100 m, the age category, 5.2% (64/1224) were less than one year, 22.6%
neighbourhood perimeter was extended by 50 m from the (277/1224) were 1–5 years, 40.7% (498/1224) were 6–12
route limits. Otherwise, where neighbourhood routes were years and 31.5% (398/1224) were 13–17 years. In the overall
within 100 m of those of another route, the neighbourhood study region, the median number of people per household
perimeter was placed equidistant between the two. Neigh- was five and the mean number of people per household
bourhood group areas were estimated by digitally tracing was 5.2 (2461/472). These household and human data by
the area boundaries for each neighbourhood group via each neighbourhood group are listed in Table 1.
software-generated perimeter and area calculations using
Garmin MapSource Trip & Waypoint Manager software 3.2. Dog ownership, dog:human ratios and absolute
version 5.00 (Garmin International Inc., 2008c). Relevant density data
neighbourhood perimeter segments were then merged to
generate the florally irregular study region route-based Of the 472 participating households, 50.8% (240/472) of
perimeter, and the overall study region perimeter and area households owned a total of 382 dogs, yielding means of 0.8
were then estimated using the same software. (382/472) owned dogs per household, 1.6 (382/240) dogs
per dog-owning household and a median of one dog per
2.4. Dog population categorization dog owning household. There were 156, 58, 13, 5, 3, 3, 1
and 1 household(s) that owned 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 11 dogs
For dog population analyses and reporting, the dog respectively. Of the 240 households that owned dogs, the
population was subdivided into multiple categories, by owned dog:human ratios had a median of 1:4 and a range
sex, confinement status, and age category (puppies aged of 7:3 to 1:23. The mean owned dog:human ratio for all
less than three months and juvenile to adult dogs aged households in the study region was 1:6.4 (382/2461). The
212 A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217

Number of people categorized by gender and age, number of households, and median number of people per household determined from a household census conducted in ten neighbourhood groups in Todos
estimated study region area was 80 ha and the absolute

Median No.
owned dog density was 478 (382/0.80) owned dogs/km2 .

people per
Table 2 lists these data by each neighbourhood group.



3.3. Owned dog demography data by age, sex,

The specific age category of 13 children from the neighbourhood of Angle are unknown. However, the total number of reported children under the age of 18 years in Todos Santos was 1237.
households confinement and rabies vaccination status

41 Of the total 382 owned dogs reported in the census,



the male:female ratio was approximately 2.6:1 (275/107),

88.2% (337/382) were aged three months or older, and
No. kids 13–17

of these, 68.5% (231/337) were reported as normally not

being confined on the household property and allowed to
range freely during the average day. The male:female sex



ratio favored males (OR = 2.57; 95% CI: 1.96–3.38). Approx-
imately 72% (238/330) of dogs were vaccinated for rabies;
of these, 69.3% (165/238) were intact males, 9.2% (22/238)
No. kids 6–12

were neutered males, 21.4% (51/238) were intact females,

and 0% (0/238) were neutered females. The rabies vacci-

nation rate was higher in males than females at a ratio of




1.08:1 for 73.3% (187/255) of males vaccinated versus 68.0%

(51/75) of females, however this difference was not statis-
tically significant (OR = 1.08; 95% CI: 0.71–1.65). The dog
No. kids 1–5

demographics for each of the neighbourhood groups are

listed in Table 3.




3.4. Dog neuter status and willingness to surgically and

non-surgically neuter dogs
No. kids <1

No owned dogs less than three months of age (0/44)





and no (0/81) females were reported neutered. Approxi-

mately 9.7% (24/247) of owned males aged three months
or older were neutered. Of these 247 owned male dogs
No. kids <18

aged three months or older, 7.9% (14/178) of unconfined

males and 14.5% (10/69) of confined males were neutered.



Of the households that owned female dogs, 89.7% (52/58)

of owners reported that they would have females surgically
neutered, and 91.4% (53/58) would have females non-
surgically neutered, if the services were available. Of the
No. women
≥18 years

households that owned male dogs, 90.3% (176/195) would

have males surgically neutered, and 92.3% (180/195) would


have males non-surgically neutered, if the services were

available. Table 4 lists the neuter status and household will-
ingness to neuter their dogs by each of the neighbourhood
No. men ≥18


4. Discussion


In this study, 50.8% of surveyed households owned

dogs. Although the degree of dog ownership was variable
Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala, May 2008.

No. people

as observed in other developing countries, the majority

of households typically owned dogs. As examples, 62%


ownership was reported in Zimbabwean communal lands

(Butler and Bingham, 2000), 63% ownership was reported
Los Matias and Los Perez

El Centro and El Calvario

in Machakos District, Kenya (Kitala et al., 2001), 67% own-

Neighbourhood group

ership was reported in the Mirigama area of Sri Lanka

(Matter et al., 2000) and 88.9% ownership in Antananarivo,
Madagascar (Ratsitorahina et al., 2009). While dogs are
Los Mendoza
Los Jimenez

Las Ruinas

commonly owned in developing countries, almost half of

Los Pablos

Che Cruz
Tuj Cuc

the households in Todos Santos did not own a dog, and

Table 1


therefore many residents may be less tolerant of free-


roaming dogs. The range of owned dogs per dog owning

Table 2
Owned dog demographics determined from a household census and GPS area calculations conducted in ten neighbourhood groups in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala, May 2008.

Neighbourhood group No. owned dogs Percent of Median No. owned No. people Owned dog to Areab [ha] Absolute density of
households that dogs per human ratio owned dogs
own dogsa dog-owning [owned dogs/km2 ]

Tuj Cuc 37 56.1 (23/41) 1 220 1:6.0 4.5 822

Angle 25 53.6 (15/28) 1 129 1:5.2 11.2 223
Los Matias and Los Perez 50 59.6 (28/47) 2 247 1:4.9 10.6 472
Los Pablos 46 60.5 (23/38) 1 205 1:4.5 7.4 622
Chiquimpic 17 57.9 (11/19) 1 94 1:5.5 3.4 500
Che Cruz 61 69.1 (38/55) 1 295 1:4.8 9.7 629
Las Ruinas 16 60.0 (12/20) 1 107 1:6.8 10.0 160

A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217

El Centro and El Calvario 45 34.0 (35/103) 1 553 1:12.3 6.9 652
Los Jimenez 25 68.4 (13/19) 2 100 1:4.0 4.2 595
Los Mendoza 60 41.2 (42/102) 1 511 1:8.5 12.1 496

Total 382 50.8 (240/472) 1 2461 1:6.4 80.0 478

Calculated as: number of dog owning households/total number of households.
GPS area calculations using GPS data with positional accuracy defined by a 95% confidence circle of radius 10 m, such that 95% of position estimates would fall within, and 5% would fall outside, the 10 m
radius circle with the true position at the centre.

Table 3
Number of owned dogs categorized by daytime confinement, age and sex, and owned dog sex ratios and number of owned dog rabies vaccinates determined from a household census conducted in ten
neighbourhood groups in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala, May 2008.

Neighbourhood group No. owned No. owned No. owned No. owned No. owned No. owned Male:female sex Percent of dog rabies
unconfineda male unconfineda female confinedb male confinedb female confinedc male confinedc female ratio vaccinates (dog rabies
dogs ≥3 months dogs ≥3 months dogs ≥3 months dogs ≥3 months dogs <3 months dogs <3 months vaccinates/owned dogs)e

Tuj Cuc 17 7 7 2 3 1 2.7 87.9 (29/33)

Angle 5 1 8 7 0 4 1.1 52.4 (11/21)
Los Matias and Los Perez 26 9 5 4 3 3 2.1 85.1 (40/47)
Los Pablos 11 3 15 7 6 4 2.3 86.7 (26/30)
Chiquimpic 2 2 7 3 1 2 1.4 76.9 (10/13)
Che Cruz 32 8 12 4 2 3 3.1 53.8 (28/52)
Las Ruinas 13 1 1 1 0 0 7 60.0 (9/15)
El Centro and El Calvario 27d 5 6 2 3 2 4 79.5 (31/39)
Los Jimenez 14 3 4 4 0 0 2.6 41.7 (10/24)
Los Mendoza 33 12 6 1 6 2 3 78.6 (44/56)

Total 180 51 71 35 24 21 2.6 72.1 (238/330)

Owned dogs not normally confined on the household property during an average day.
Owned dogs normally confined on the household property during an average day.
Dogs <3 months of age were assumed to be confined.
The confinement status was unknown for one owned male dog ≥3 months in the neighbourhood group of El Cenro and El Calvario, and was deemed to be unconfined for analysis purposes.
There are 52 owned dogs with unknown rabies vaccination status.

214 A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217

Owned dog rabies vaccination status, neuter status, and owner willingness to surgically and non-surgically neuter their dogs if such veterinary services were available, as determined from a household census
household was 1–11, with a median value of one owned

neuter femalese
dog per household, and a mean of 1.6 owned dogs per dog
% Households

91.4 (53/58)
100 (11/11)
owning household. Previous studies in some indigenous

62.5 (5/8)

87.5 (7/8)

50.0 (1/2)
willing to

100 (5/5)
100 (7/7)

100 (5/5)
100 (3/3)

100 (2/2)
100 (7/7)
regions of Guatemala have reported that the majority of
households own at least one dog, and up to 10 dogs (Ryan
et al., 2003).
In general, American and European countries have
reported owned dog:human ratios between 1:10 and 1:6
willing to surgically

(WHO/WSPA, 1990, p. 9). Owned dog population projec-

neuter femalese
% Households

tion estimates in Guatemala have historically been based

89.7 (52/58)
100 (11/11)
87.5 (7/8)
50.0 (4/8)

50.0 (1/2)
on studies from the 1980s and suggest owned dog:human
100 (5/5)
100 (7/7)

100 (5/5)
100 (3/3)

100 (2/2)
100 (7/7) ratios of 1:9 in urban areas and 1:6 in rural areas (Ordoñez
et al., 2005). However, a more recent household survey con-
ducted in Amatitlán, Guatemala Sur, Guatemala, suggests
owned dog:human ratios of 1:6 in urban areas and 1:4 in
rural areas (Juárez et al., 2008). The owned dog:human
ratios observed for the overall study region here (1:6.4)
92.3 (180/195)
neuter malesd
% Households

85.2 (23/27)
84.6 (11/13)
88.6 (31/35)
96.7 (29/30)
87.0 (20/23)
100 (18/18)
100 (13/13)

100 (21/21)

are consistent with these estimates. It is important to note

85.7 (6/7)
willing to

100 (8/8)

that the dog:human ratio reported here is for owned dogs

only; thus, the total dog:human ratio for this population
would be higher when unowned dogs are also considered.
This high dog:human ratio may be representative of the
perceived community problem. A related paper that arose
willing to surgically

from the household census reported here describes some of

90.3 (176/195)
neuter malesd

the problems associated with the dogs in this community

% Households

94.4 (17/18)

82.6 (19/23)

85.2 (23/27)
84.6 (11/13)
88.6 (31/35)
95.2 (20/21)

96.7 (29/30)
100 (13/13)

(Lunney et al., 2011), and confirmed that the dogs of Todos

71.4 (5/7)

100 (8/8)

Santos were a concern to community members. For exam-

ple, the majority of households strongly agreed that there
There are 15 households that own male dogs with unknown response to the question of willingness to neuter.
There is 1 household that owns female dogs with unknown response to the question of willingness to neuter.

were too many dogs in the community (82.6%; 390/472

households), and that these dogs posed physical risks to
people (78.8%; 372/472 households), could transmit infec-
tions to people (88.6%; 418/472 households), and scared
members of their household (82.4%; 389/472).
0 (0/10)
0 (0/12)
0 (0/16)
0 (0/14)
0 (0/7)
0 (0/13)
0 (0/1)
0 (0/8)
0 (0/7)
0 (0/14)

0 (0/102)
% Females

Approximately 68.5% of owned dogs older than three

conducted in ten neighbourhood groups in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala, May 2008.

months within the study region were reported as not nor-

mally being confined during the average day. This finding
is typical of many developing countries, where the major-
ity of the dog population is only temporarily restricted in
% Males neuteredb

their activities and movements, if at all (Matter and Daniels,

2000, p. 45; Jackman and Rowan, 2007, p. 58). As exam-
8.9 (24/271)

ples, it was reported that 69% of owned dogs were never

14.8 (4/27)
15.4 (2/13)
8.8 (3/34)
12.9 (4/31)

2.2 (1/45)
7.7 (1/14)
13.9 (5/36)
16.7 (3/17)
2.3 (1/45)

There are 52 owned dogs with unknown rabies vaccination status.

0.0 (0/9)

restricted and ranged freely in the Machakos District, Kenya

There are 4 owned female dogs with unknown neuter status.

(Kitala et al., 2001), 74% of dogs were allowed to roam

There are 5 owned male dogs with unknown neuter status.

freely in the Thungsong District of Thailand (Kongkaew

et al., 2004), 79.1% of owned dogs were never restricted and
roamed freely in Antananarivo, Madagascar (Ratsitorahina
% Dogs vaccinated

et al., 2009), 85% of owned dogs were free-ranging dur-

72.1 (238/330)

ing the day in the Sorsogon Province of the Republic of the

87.9 (29/33)
52.4 (11/21)

53.8 (28/52)

79.5 (31/39)

78.6 (44/56)
85.1 (40/47)
86.7 (26/30)
76.9 (10/13)

41.7 (10/24)
60.0 (9/15)
for rabiesa

Philippines (Childs et al., 1998), and 89.5% of owned dogs

were always free to range in Zimbabwean communal lands
(Butler and Bingham, 2000).
Free-roaming dog populations generally suffer from
extremely poor health and welfare (Jackman and Rowan,
Los Matias and Los Perez

El Centro and El Calvario

2007, p. 58), and relative to dogs that are not free-roaming,

Neighbourhood group

are generally less healthy due to fighting and increased

exposure to communicable diseases (Fielding et al., 2005).
Dogs in developing countries generally receive little vet-
Los Mendoza
Los Jimenez

Las Ruinas

erinary care, and free-roaming dogs are even less likely to

Los Pablos

Che Cruz
Tuj Cuc

receive veterinary care than dogs that are not free-roaming

Table 4


(Jackman and Rowan, 2007, p. 58). Free-roaming dogs also


tend to be plagued by disease and parasitism (Boitani et al.,

A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217 215

1995; Fielding et al., 2005) and are less likely to be vac- by the authors uses a variety of mark-recapture estimation
cinated (Kongkaew et al., 2004). To eliminate or prevent methods to determine the unowned and free-roaming dog
rabies outbreaks, the WHO recommends that at least 70% populations in this community. The owned dog demogra-
of the community dog population should be vaccinated phy data that were generated in the present study are being
(Kongkaew et al., 2004). Despite the reported level of rabies used as baseline data to evaluate the long-term effective-
vaccination in owned dogs being 72% in Todos Santos in this ness of population control interventions.
study, given that the majority (33/52) of dogs of unknown In this study, there were proportionally more males
rabies vaccination status were less than three months of than females (2.6:1) in the owned dog population. In most
age, it is likely that the rabies vaccination coverage for developing countries, the preference for male dogs, and
the owned dog population was below the 70% thresh- the higher mortality rates of female dogs, results in male
old. Furthermore, given that this study does not include dominated sex ratios (Matter and Daniels, 2000). When
a substantial number of unowned dogs, rabies vaccination a community concern is dog aggression, a high propor-
coverage was likely well below the 70% threshold. tion of intact male dogs is relevant, as they are more
Free-roaming dogs are also faced with starvation, mal- likely to be aggressive than either neutered males or
nutrition and dehydration (Matter and Daniels, 2000), as females. As examples of male dominated sex ratios, the
well as being poisoned, harassed by people, and struck by owned dog male:female sex ratio was 1.59:1 in Antana-
vehicles (Jackman and Rowan, 2007, p. 58). In addition, narivo, Madagascar (Ratsitorahina et al., 2009), 2:1 in
puppies are often left unattended, increasing their risk of Thailand (Kongkaew et al., 2004), 5.7:1 in Bali, Indonesia
predation (Matter and Daniels, 2000). While not formally (Margawani and Robertson, 1995), and 6.8:1 in Istanbul,
investigated here, the research team did witness fighting Turkey (WHO, 1998). Possible reasons for the typically
for food among dogs and motor vehicle accidents involving male dominated sex ratios among owned dog populations
dogs, during the field visits to Todos Santos. Free-roaming have been described previously (Pal, 2001). These include
dogs, particularly in instances of overpopulation, present human-imposed selection pressures, such as direct selec-
public health risks including zoonoses, contact injuries, tion of males as better guard dogs (Kitala et al., 2001)
environmental pollution (Matter and Daniels, 2000, p. 19), and household pets (Daniels and Bekoff, 1989; Boitani
and the social problems described earlier. et al., 1995). Dog owners have also been reported to want
In addition to the fear and intimidation caused by dogs to avoid responsibility for females in estrus or for litters
and encountered by community members in Todos Santos (Hsu et al., 2003; Margawani and Robertson, 1995), lead-
that were reported by Lunney et al. (2011) and described ing to selective removal of females from the population
above, there were other indications that dogs posed prob- during breeding periods to disband groups of male dogs
lems to community members. Approximately 16.5% of (Matter and Daniels, 2000) and avoid unwanted pregnan-
households (78/472) also reported at least one dog bite dur- cies (Daniels and Bekoff, 1989); or permanent removal by
ing the previous two year period, which equated to 85 dog killing females as newborn puppies (Daniels and Bekoff,
bites, the majority of which 64.7% (55/85) required treat- 1989; Boitani et al., 1995; Matter and Daniels, 2000). In this
ment at home or from a health care practitioner (Lunney study, the male:female owned dog sex ratio favored males
et al., 2011). While a formal quantification of the risks other over females with statistical significance at the p = 0.05
than dog bites that are associated with dog overpopula- level. There were no trends noted regarding neighbour-
tion was not performed as part of this or the Lunney et al. hood parameters with regards to sex ratio or dog:human
(2011) study, they were highly evident within the study ratio at the neighbourhood level.
region. For instance, environmental contamination with Female dogs were reported to be less likely to be vacci-
dog wastes was widespread, particularly at the munici- nated than males in Machakos District, Kenya, where 35%
pal garbage dump frequently used by dogs as a source for of male dogs were vaccinated, compared with only 20%
food. An investigation of gastrointestinal parasite infesta- of females (Kitala et al., 2001). In this study, the rabies
tions of owned dogs in Todos Santos was performed by vaccination rate was higher in males than females, how-
the lead author in January 2009. Fecal floatation testing on ever when the vaccination rates were compared there was
randomly collected fecal samples from 49 dogs less than no statistically significant difference at the p = 0.05 level.
one year of age, confirmed positive test results at a level Female dogs were also reported more likely to be aban-
of 71.4% (35/49) for helminths, including one or more of doned than males and less likely to be licensed than male
Toxocara canis, Ancylostoma spp., Dipilydium spp., Taenia dogs in New Providence, Bahamas, where 59% of males and
spp. and Trichuris spp., for each positive fecal floatation test 41% of females are licensed (Fielding et al., 2005), and to
(unpublished data). Community members also shared sto- have shorter life spans than males; these higher mortal-
ries of dog attacks on livestock, including cattle and sheep. ity rates were related to lower levels of care provided by
These issues highlight the importance of responsible dog owners (Jackman and Rowan, 2007, p. 59).
ownership and dog population control measures, particu- In this study, 9.7% (24/247) of males aged three months
larly in developing countries. It is obvious that both owned or older, no (0/81) females aged three months or older, and
and unowned dogs are contributing to the population of no dogs less than three months of age (0/44) were reported
free-roaming dogs in Todos Santos, indicating that control neutered. This tendency for females to be neutered less
of both groups of dogs is important if the community is often than males has been reported elsewhere (Jackman
to reduce the fear and public health problems associated and Rowan, 2007, p. 58). As examples, 15% of male dogs, but
with dogs. Accordingly, a limitation of this study is the sole no female dogs, were neutered in the Machakos District,
inclusion of the owned dog population. A subsequent paper Kenya (Kitala et al., 2001), 16.3% of male dogs compared
216 A.S. Pulczer et al. / Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108 (2013) 209–217

with 0.7% of female dogs were neutered in Zimbabwean present study will be used as baselines to evaluate the
communal lands (Butler and Bingham, 2000), and 44% of long-term effectiveness of these population control inter-
male dogs but only 11% of female dogs were neutered in ventions. These baseline dog demographic data may be
Bali, Indonesia (Margawani and Robertson, 1995). How- of similar use in comparable populations in resource and
ever, there have been exceptions where female dogs were infrastructure-poor environments.
reported to have a higher sterilization rate than males,
such as New Providence, Bahamas (Fielding and Plumridge, Conflict of interest statement
2005) and in Thungsong District, Thailand (Kongkaew et al.,
2004). In many developing countries, low rates of dog ster- The authors declare that they have no conflicts of
ilization, especially in females, perpetuates uncontrolled interest.
breeding, and unwanted pregnancies.
The uncommon occurrence of dog sterilization observed Acknowledgements
in this study was apparently not due to a lack of willing-
ness among owners to have their dogs neutered. The large The authors would like to thank the Mayor and
majority of dog owners reported that they would have their municipal government of Todos Santos Cuchumatán for
dogs surgically or non-surgically neutered, if the services permitting and supporting the study. Thanks are due to
were available. The gender of respondents was not explic- local neighbourhood leaders and field workers for their
itly recorded, thus limiting further interpretation of the contributions, especially Andres Carrillo, as well as the local
percentage of persons who stated that they would neuter residents for their exemplary participation, cooperation
their dog. There was a marginal preference for non-surgical and hospitality. The authors thank Marjolaine Perrault for
neuter options, which could be due to perceived safety and her field work and Spanish translation, Kelly McCormack
welfare advantages. There are no regular veterinary ser- for her field work and logistic support, Natalia Cernic-
vices available in the town of Todos Santos Cuchumatán, as chiaro and Norma Varela for their Spanish translation, Taya
there are no local resident veterinary personnel or perma- L. Forde for her Guatemalan resource assistance, and Dr.
nent facilities. The nearest veterinary facilities are located Brian Aw for contributions in kind. The authors gratefully
in the neighboring city of Huehuetenango, approximately acknowledge Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires
two hours away by bus, via tortuous mountain roads. This sans Frontières – Canada, the Ontario Veterinary College
lack of infrastructure and service is not uncommon in many Fellowship Program and the University of Guelph for fund-
communities in developing countries, which no doubt con- ing. The study sponsors had no involvement in the study
tributes to problems of dog overpopulation and health and design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of
welfare concerns, as well as their resulting impacts on pub- data; in the writing of the manuscript; and in the decision
lic health. to submit the manuscript for publication.

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