Aims: To describe submissions of dogs and cats to an animal welfare shelter over a 6-year period, and to evaluate the association between the numbers of dogs and cats submitted per square kilometre, human population density, and standardised measures of socioeconomic deprivation.
Methods: Details of free-roaming and surrendered dogs and cats presented to the Wellington shelter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for the period 01 July 1999 to 28 February 2006 were recorded in a relational database. Data were plotted as counts of animals presented to the shelter each month as a function of calendar time. Kernel-smoothing techniques were used to describe the spatial distribution of capture location. The association between the number of dogs and cats submitted per square kilometre, human population density (both estimated at the mesh-block level), and mesh-block socioeconomic deprivation index were quantified using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (r).
Results: The data comprised submission details for 3,709 dogs and 13,563 cats. There was a progressive decline in the number of dogs and cats submitted to the shelter over the study period, and a marked seasonal variation in submissions of cats. Submission density of dogs and cats was positively associated with human population density (Pearson's r=0.12; 95% CI=0.06-0.20 and 0.39; 95% CI=0.33-0.45, respectively) and socioeconomic deprivation (Pearson's r=0.12; 95% CI=0.05- 0.19 for both dogs and cats).
Conclusions: Active approaches to free-roaming cat control by the Wellington SPCA should focus on the period June to September, prior to the feline breeding season, in population-dense and socioeconomically deprived areas. Composite analyses of submission details from all animal shelters in the Wellington region should allow factors associated with the distribution of free-roaming dogs and cats to be more precisely estimated.