Animal welfare considerations for using large carnivores and guardian dogs as vertebrate biocontrol tools against other animals
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Introducing consumptive and non-consumptive effects into food webs can have profound effects on individuals, populations and communities. This knowledge has led to the deliberate use of predation and/or fear of predation as an emerging technique for controlling wildlife. Many now advocate for the intentional use of large carnivores and livestock guardian dogs as more desirable alternatives to traditional wildlife control approaches like fencing, shooting, trapping, or poisoning. However, there has been very little consideration of the animal welfare implications of deliberately using predation as a wildlife management tool. We assess the animal welfare impacts of using dingoes, leopards and guardian dogs as biocontrol tools against wildlife in Australia and South Africa following the ‘Five Domains’ model commonly used to assess other wildlife management tools. Application of this model indicates that large carnivores and guardian dogs cause considerable lethal and non-lethal animal welfare impacts to the individual animals they are intended to control. These impacts are likely similar across different predator-prey systems, but are dependent on specific predator-prey combinations; combinations that result in short chases and quick kills will be rated as less harmful than those that result in long chases and protracted kills. Moreover, these impacts are typically rated greater than those caused by traditional wildlife control techniques. The intentional lethal and non-lethal harms caused by large carnivores and guardian dogs should not be ignored or dismissively assumed to be negligible. A greater understanding of the impacts they impose would benefit from empirical studies of the animal welfare outcomes arising from their use in different contexts.
- RESEARCH: Somers M