FOUR PAWS conducts stray animal care programmes in multiple countries in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Within these programmes, Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact (ME&I) is an essential component in stray animal population management, before, during and after the programme. The aim of ME&I is to assess the effectiveness of our interventions designed to sustainably manage and humanely reduce the population of stray animals. By regularly monitoring and evaluating our work in the field from baseline assessment onwards, we can identify areas for improvement, adjust interventions accordingly, ensure that our resources are used in the most effective and efficient way, and with this maximise our impact for stray animal populations.
Understanding stray animal populations
The ME&I approach involves the collecting and analysis of data to identify the impact of our stray animal population interventions. In other words: we measure the extent to which our work produces a lasting change for stray animals.
FOUR PAWS runs community-led stray animal care programmes in Eastern Europe. For each municipality/local authority, it is critical to understand the size and characteristics of the stray and owned dog and cat population. Only when we understand the dog and/or cat populations and their dynamics in a certain area, we can design and implement a successful, tailor-made dog/cat population management system with the aim to sterilise and vaccinate a minimum of 70% of the total stray animal population.
We work in the field: this is the place where the problem and the solution converge.
Data collection in the field
The ME&I component can include all kinds of data collection methods, and commonly includes:
- Street dog/cat surveys: Here we use methods that have been derived from wildlife survey methodology and which have been studied for street animal populations in many countries since a decade. Examples of these surveys include transect surveys and mark-recapture (MR) surveys. The surveys involve counting the number of stray dogs and/or cats in a given area to estimate the size and density of the stray population, as well as collecting other data such as sex, health status and signs of ownership.
- Household surveys: Here we research the number of owned pets, and whether owned pets are sterilised and allowed to roam freely, which contributes significantly to our ME&I assessment. The data is crucial as it provides us with a comprehensive understanding of the demographic composition of the dog/cat population in an area (including owned animals), and the prevalence of key factors that affect stray dog/cat population management.
- Stakeholder interviews: Here we collect data from key stakeholders, such as representatives from the municipalities/authorities, law enforcers such as policemen, community members, veterinarians and other animal welfare organisations, to gain insights into attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours of different groups towards owned and stray animals and owned and stray animal population management.
- Shelter data: Here we collect data from local animal shelters/rescues, where stray animals may be held for adoption. This provides us with insights into the characteristics and trends of the local dog/cat population, including the number of animals entering and leaving shelters, the reasons for abandonment and the outcomes of shelter interventions. It also gives us a better understanding of factors that may contribute to the sources of strays, such as lack of responsible pet ownership, poor adoption culture and uncontrolled breeding.
Of course, depending on the needs in a certain area, more types of data collection methods can help to inform interventions and assess our impact on the stray animal population and individual animal welfare. By collecting and analysing these sets of data before, during and after the implementation of a dog/cat population management project, we can implement stray animal care projects in the most effective and efficient manner, including providing advice to the involved municipalities/authorities on how to best manage dogs and cats in their communities.