An overview of AMRRIC’s approach to companion animal population management in Australia’s remote Indigenous communities
Author: Bonny Cumming, Veterinarian and AMRRIC Project Officer
Most Australians have little understanding of life in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; few have spared a thought for the health and management of community dogs and cats. In these isolated locations where access to services is so heavily influenced by weather, distance and culture, unmanaged companion animal populations easily escalate resulting in health and welfare concerns for the animals, biodiversity impacts and impaired human health and safety. By coordinating veterinary and education programs that cater to the cultural context of remote Indigenous communities, AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) aims to address these concerns and is helping to create healthier, safer and happier communities.
AMRRIC is a not-for-profit charity with a strong One Health focus that was established by veterinarians and animal management professionals in 2004. Our approach recognises the complex interactions between human, animal and environmental health and wellbeing, to deliver culturally appropriate One Health solutions from the ground, up. The immediate objectives of our programs are stable and healthy companion animal populations, however in the long term, the focus of our One Health approach is sustainability and capacity building, so that communities can be empowered to confidently and effectively manage their own companion animal populations.
AMRRIC veterinary programs focus on population control and prevention of potentially zoonotic parasites and have immediate, practical health benefits for the dogs and the community. Treatments are delivered with a population-level viewpoint, and typically include surgical desexing, parasite treatments, treatments for animal welfare concerns and euthanasia (upon request and with informed consent). Partnerships with private veterinarians, as well as the added capacity provided by volunteer vets and vet nurses, ensure that despite being a small organisation, AMRRIC can extend it’s veterinary reach.
Building on the observable impacts delivered by veterinary programs, our education programs allow us to bring long-term benefits by engaging community members in conversations about dog health and how it affects family health. Public health and animal welfare messages are delivered in AMRRIC’s school and community education and resources, which promote responsible pet ownership, animal empathy, health and hygiene, and safety around animals. AMRRIC Education Officers also deliver training to Indigenous Animal Management and Environmental Health Workers, aiming to share the necessary skills and knowledge so that they can effectively work with veterinary teams, and confidently deliver important educational messages to their own communities.
AMRRIC is always eager to collaborate and welcomes contact from public health professionals. To get in touch, please email email@example.com.