9 Sep 2013

Better dog control in Samoa seen as important for tourism

4:26 pm on 9 September 2013

The importance of tourism to Samoa's economy has added to calls for the better management of the canine population there.

A recent study by New Zealand's Massey University's veterinary school, found many tourists had a negative interaction with a dog while there.

The University's Dr Kate Hill says an earlier study found most dogs in Samoa carry some form of disease, which also highlights the need to improve the welfare of dogs there.

KATE HILL: What we found, testing nearly 250 dogs, we found that about 90% of them had hookworm, which is a parasite that can spread to people if they're walking on the sand and get the parasite up into their foot. And we also found that another half of them had another parasite which is called 'heartworm' and can actually be sent on to humans very occasionally. The most recent study that we did was actually studying the tourists themselves and asking what they thought of the dog population in Samoa. It is important to realise that the dogs over there are different to our pet dogs. They are owned by the villages and not often individually. A lot of them, it is not the same as a pet dog here that's kept in the house or kept in the yard. That is how the Samoan dogs are. So we would expect the tourists to have a different perception. But what we found is that about 64% of the tourists had a negative interaction with dogs while they were there. And over 80% of the tourists that we surveyed thought that there needed to be better management of the dog population. It's just because tourism is such an important part of the Samoan economy, we probably need to balance the reception of the tourists with what the Samoan population do with their dogs and really work with them to try and help them and their tourist industry, as well, so it's a bit of working with them on both sides.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: How can they be better managed? What are some of the strategies?

KATE HILL: Some of the strategies for better managing the dogs would be to try and control the population through the spaying and neutering programmes. The Animal Protection Society does spay and neuter some of the dogs, but we need to help and work with them 'cause they don't have the ability to get out to all the local villages. So some extra help would actually be good. So we're trying to continue our programme by sending more veterinarians and students to help with that spaying and neutering programme. And we also do need to find out more of the potential for zoonotic diseases, so diseases that could be transferred from dogs to people, which could be a public health concern. So we need to a little bit more research in that area, as well.