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Ku were & Puthiket Count at Wadeye

Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy Community Engagement Officer Brett Devitt and Thamarrurr Rangers Margaret Mary Melpi & Wendy Simon checking which houses are yet to be visited

Understanding the size and health condition of remote community dog and cat populations is important as it allows better tailoring of visiting veterinary services, and therefore more efficient use of limited professional resources. In many communities however, the exact size and condition of dog and cat populations remains unknown. AMRRIC is keen to change this by working with a variety of community groups, organisations and government departments, to collect and share data to gain a better picture of dog and cat populations across Australia.

Following a request for assistance, in late June AMRRIC collaborated with the Thamarrurr Rangers, Northern Territory Department of Health Environmental Health staff, and Department of Agriculture Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) staff to undertake a full community dog (ku were) and cat (puthiket) census at Wadeye – near the North West coast of the NT, and the largest Indigenous community in the NT. AMRRIC Project Officer Dr Bonny Cumming worked with the multi-agency team, training everyone in the use of AMRRIC’s custom designed iPad App, to collect dog and cat data including numbers, gender, reproductive status, size, body condition, skin condition, and other problems observed.

For efficient coverage of the community, the group split into four teams and went door to door, asking community members about the number and health of their animals. Working with the rangers made the process far more efficient as not only were the rangers able to act as translators, in most cases they knew the house owners and were able to tell the team about the resident animals even if the owner wasn’t home!

All data was collected with owner consent, and at the same time, and with permission from their owners, all dogs were treated with ivermectin – a broad spectrum anti-parasite treatment which targets intestinal worms (including some that are zoonotic) and ticks, and aids in the treatment of mange. Thanks to the support of Zoetis, the small proportion of dogs that had significant hair loss (likely resulting from sarcoptes mites) were treated with Simparica – a new generation month-long tick, flea and mite treatment.

Despite initially scheduling three days for the census, the multi-agency teams exceeded expectations and managed to visit all 314 houses within Wadeye in just two days! With a bit of last minute planning the extra day was then spent in a nearby community completing a full census there also. The data collected provides a rich snapshot of number and health of dogs and cats in Wadeye and Palumpa, and will be shared with all of the organisations involved in its collection, as well as other relevant groups, to advocate for improved and sustained animal management within the communities. AMRRIC thanks all those involved and looks forward to future collaborative activities.

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