The capacity for decision-making and intervention in any project related to equid welfare should be based on a knowledge of the real issues affecting these animals worldwide, regardless of the tasks performed. This approach is even more important when new emerging economic activities around equids - e.g. donkey skin trade - are particularly challenging in terms of animal welfare.
The Equid Assessment Research & Scoping (EARS) Tool is a questionnaire developed by The Donkey Sanctuary, in collaboration with World Horse Welfare, with the main purpose to provide reliable information about the general health and welfare of equids worldwide. EARS is primarily designed to obtain individual information about an equid and its surrounding environment, or from a group of equids in similar conditions, through cumulative repetition. It is organized into 18 indicators, each one divided in to different categories, and each category with a specific set of questions. The EARS Tool allows the development of different protocols, by choosing the correct set of questions that best fit the inherent needs.
Data collection and preliminary analysis of data in a simple, fast and effective way are also a central aspect of EARS, by using open source software (OSS) throughout the data collection cycle: Open Data Kit Collect to log information in the field; R to parse, analyze and filter this information; and R Shiny to disseminate the results through dashboards. These OSS products allow off-line data collection with initial overview results presented as soon as the user uploads their surveys when back online.
This new tool contributes to a better understanding of the underlying reasons behind poor equid welfare, and allows the design of evidence-based strategies that not only identify and tackle the real causes of problems, but also allow the organizations to measure the impact of decisions taken over time.