Nearly 23 years ago, the Italian parliament approved a law providing for government protection and assistance for free-roaming dogs (FRDs) and forbidding euthanasia of unwanted dogs unless incurably ill or proven dangerous. This presented a challenge to management systems, as kennels have become overcrowded. Owned dogs (ODs) are often allowed to roam free, and there is a significant population of stray dogs (SDs), partially as a result of abandoned ODs. Some groups have been converted into block dogs (BDs) that are captured, microchipped, sterilized, and released.
This study described a cost-benefit model for different management options in 2 Italian provinces for 4 groups of dogs: ODs, SDs, BDs, and kennel dogs (KDs). The model addressed welfare, nuisance, and direct costs to the municipality responsible for the management of these dogs. Welfare for each group was quantified based on freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, or disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress. Public nuisance included dog bites, disease transmission, property and wildlife damage, waste, and noise pollution.
Results indicated that optimal management decisions are complex, but the most favorable outcomes would be achieved by focusing on dog ownership patterns to reduce the number of FRDs. Increasing sterilization rates, decreasing abandonment, and increasing adoptions are key.