Modelling the UK Dog Population

Three dogs

The Approach

A team of 4 Pro Bono OR volunteers from DECC set out to help the clients establish a consensus view of how many dogs there are ‘in the system’ and how they move between different parts of the system, such as strays and rescue.

The scope of the project covered:

Reviewing the available data, by means of a literature review, in order to produce a snapshot of the UK dog population.

Designing and building  a stocks and flows model to investigate the movement of dogs from ownership (including working dogs), through welfare organisations (including strays).

Developing recommendations for possible uses and future development of the model, taking account of potential additional sources of data (e.g. Kennel Club, PetLog, DEFRA).

"The DECC team brought a disciplined approach to this project and really highlighted the data and evidence challenges in this complex social policy area."

The Client

The RSPCA is the UK’s leading animal welfare charity. Dog-ED is a Social Enterprise applying Systems Thinking to canine welfare.

The Client's Problem

Just how many dogs are there in the UK and how many are moving in and out of welfare/rescue? Without an understanding of the population and how it is stratified, it is difficult to propose meaningful welfare improvement policies.

The Solution

The literature review identified around 50 data sources and 100 data points and time-series.

No consensus on the overall population was possible due to multiple discrepancies and some questionable validity among the data sources – the population estimates ranged from 8.5 to 11+ million dogs in the UK.

The Benefits

  • We now know what we don’t know about the UK dog population, based on a rigorous literature review.
  • The DECC team felt they built a strong relationship with the clients and helped sell the benefits of OR to them.
  • The clients can now argue the case for better data collection, to inform policy-making, with a clearer view of what is needed in order to model the dog population more fully in the future.