A shortage of veterinary services and too many free range dogs are contributing to serious health issues in remote indigenous communities.
But a conference to be held in Darwin this week by Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC) aims to change that by studying links between human, animal and environmental health.
“People in remote communities love their animals just like people do in any other place, but in remote communities we don’t have fences, dogs are free-roaming, and people tend to have a lot more dogs if there’s been a lack of veterinary services,” AMRRIC CEO Julia Hardaker told AAP.
Living closely with dogs also creates serious health problems.
“They share mattresses, bedding, their homes, and when there aren’t regular (treatments) for mange and other intestinal tract problems – worms and ticks and parasites – then links between animal and human health become … intrinsically linked.”
AMRRIC will talk about successful programs such as the one run in Barkly Shire in central Australia, where about 90 per cent of dogs are desexed, far outstripping any other remote community in Australia.
“In places where there’s been really strong veterinary programs and shire commitment we’ve seen a lot of a change towards more responsible pet ownership,” Ms Hardaker said.
“We have to have people wanting to have fewer, healthier dogs that are better managed and controlled … and strongly valued as family members,” Ms Hardaker said.