Welfare assessment tool to change the lives of world’s working equines

Share
Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary assess the welfare of one of their donkeys using the EARS tool.
Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary assess the welfare of one of their donkeys using the EARS tool. © Edoardo Santangelo / The Donkey Sanctuary

An equid welfare assessment and monitoring tool, launched by two leading animal welfare charities, has received validation by top peer-reviewed scientific journal Animals.

The Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool, developed by The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare, is being used to gather welfare data on equids across the world, including those working in areas with limited access to resources.

The tool is built around a sophisticated and versatile questionnaire designed to obtain individual information about an equid and its surrounding environment, or from a group of equids in similar conditions, through cumulative repetition.

Head of Global Research at The Donkey Sanctuary, Zoe Raw said: “Getting the EARS tool published as a validated method in the scientific literature is a major milestone in its progress, and a great achievement for us as an organisation.

“Its publication demonstrates to the world that we are an evidence-driven organisation that is leading the way to improve the lives of donkeys and mules worldwide. Getting the EARS tool developed, trialed, and now scientifically validated and published couldn’t have happened without the hard work and dedication of all our staff.”

Using scientifically validated questions employing consistent language, objective measures and thorough training, the EARS tool enables users to collect reliable information about the general health and welfare state of equids in any context worldwide, and provides a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons behind poor equid health globally.

Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary assess the welfare of one of their donkeys using the EARS tool.
A resident at The Donkey Sanctuary gets the once-over from staff using the EARS tool. © Edoardo Santangelo / The Donkey Sanctuary

Dr Joe Ryding, Head of Data and Statistics at The Donkey Sanctuary, said it was exciting to have the ability to get data in the hands of everyone working to improve the lives of donkeys globally.

“From the teams working and collecting information in the field, to decision-makers back in the office, we can all share data in real-time and make sure we are acting on the most reliable, robust information we have,” Ryding said.

Developing EARS has enabled both organisations to share their experiences of assessing the welfare of equids in the field. Placing cutting-edge technology at the centre of the charities’ research strategies, the EARS tool enables them to measure the impact of interventions.

João B. Rodrigues, Senior Lead – Welfare Assessment at The Donkey Sanctuary and the lead developer of the EARS tool, said one of the strongest aspects of the EARS tool is that it provides the chance to build specific protocols for specific situations, regardless of the location or function of an equid, allowing the collection of reliable and accurate evidence-based information to guide the decision-making process.

“It is very important to highlight that for the first time, a welfare-assessment tool allows us to collect data of any equid, be it working or feral. This achievement has been made possible thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Research and Operational Support team over the course of two years, and one that will continue its development to ensure the tool is made available to all,” Rodrigues said.

Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS): The Development and Implementation of a New Equid Welfare Assessment and Monitoring Tool
by Zoe Raw, Joao B. Rodrigues, Karen Rickards, Joe Ryding, Stuart L. Norris, Andrew Judge, Laura M. Kubasiewicz, Tamlin L. Watson, Holly Little, Ben Hart, Rebekah Sullivan, Chris Garrett and Faith A. Burden.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 297; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020297. A PDF is available for download.

Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary assess the welfare of one of their donkeys using the EARS tool.
The Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool was developed by The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare., © Edoardo Santangelo / The Donkey Sanctuary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *