Modelling the UK Dog Population – summary report

The breeding, ownership and welfare of dogs in the UK is a complex social area. Although there has been research into the size of the dog population, nobody has pulled all this together into a single model that everyone can use to help focus priority issues.  As a consequence, different stakeholders have varying, and sometimes conflicting, views of how many dogs there are and their needs.  Without a consensus understanding of the population and how it is stratified, it is difficult to propose meaningful welfare improvement policies.

Earlier this year the RSPCA and Dog-ED worked with a group of Operational Research analysts from the Department for Environment and Climate Change (DECC) to review the literature and establish a baseline of data on the UK dog population.  The DECC team did this for us as a pro bono project coordinated by the Operational Research Society, of which Ian Seath is a member.
The project case study (download pdf) summarises the results of the literature survey and the challenges the DECC team faced when trying to build a population stocks and flows model (example below).  The DECC team will be presenting a paper at this year’s OR Conference, based on this work.
Stocks and Flows

Conclusions:

  1. Top-down and bottom-up calculations of the UK dog population do not agree, resulting in a significant range (8.5 – 11+ million)
  2. There is insufficient data from publicly available sources to quantify the origins and populations of non-KC registered pure-bred dogs (e.g. “hobby breeder”, “commercial” or “puppy farm”)
  3. There is insufficient data to understand the reasons why dogs are relinquished and go into welfare, or to identify the extent to which dogs in welfare may be moving in and out of “revolving doors”
  4. The lack of data makes it too difficult to identify additional areas (over currently known points) where interventions could occur to improve the welfare of dogs
  5. Forecasts of the potential impacts of different interventions are dependent on external factors (economic and societal) which are themselves difficult to predict
  6. The DECC OR team has brought a rigorous and disciplined approach to this project and highlighted the data and evidence challenges that exist in this complex social policy area

 

Download: Understanding the UK Dog Population

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