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Understanding the issues

Most Australians have little to no understanding of the reality of life in remote Indigenous communities and how this impacts on animal and human health. It is important we learn about the practical challenges of managing dogs within a poorly resourced community, and to engage with and understand the influence of the cultural traditions and beliefs held by each community.

Issues associated with unmanaged dogs

  • Overpopulation - uncontrolled breeding, unwanted dogs and large numbers
  • Disease - zoonoses
  • Nuisance - noise associated with barking, fighting or mating
  • Litter - mess from scavenging e.g. overturned bins, scraps, faeces etc.
  • Threat - violent dogs biting or attacking children
  • Danger - chasing vehicles
  • Loss - dogs stealing food from storage or young children. Attacks on livestock e.g. poultry
  • Animal abuse - sick, undernourished, and dying animals. Physical abuse e.g. dogs used for spear practice by young males or suffering from water scalding
  • Disempowerment - uncontrolled dogs lower community self-respect. This is expressed in terms like 'sad for dog' and 'shamed'
  • Stress - grief over sick or dying dogs. The sense of loss must be viewed in the context of the local culture

Broader issues associated with remote communities

  • Remoteness - each situation is significantly different 
  • Issues for communities - lack of resources, lack of information and training, limited job opportunities, poor education levels, high welfare dependency
  • Government and stakeholder issues - unsustainable culling programs resulting in lack of trust, lack of government understanding of the issues, failure to listen to the needs of communities, lack of funding and fluctuating funding commitments, lack of coordination between agencies, unavailability of qualified vets, competition for services between communities, failure of past programs due to poor design


Dog in red soil at Utopia community in the Northern Territory

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Darwin NT 0801