Engaging the Dog Owner Community in the Design of an Effective Koala Aversion Program

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David, Patricia
Rundle-Thiele, Sharyn
Pang, Bo
Knox, Kathy
Parkinson, Joy
Hussenoeder, Felix
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2019
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Introduction: This article outlines a dog owner–focused social marketing pilot program implemented in 2017, which aimed to reduce koala and domestic dog interactions in one local city council in Australia.

Literature: Dog attacks and predation are the third most common cause of death in koalas after habitat loss and vehicle strikes. Programs aiming to reduce wildlife and domestic pet interactions frequently neglect human dimensions, and social sciences have been called upon to complement conservation efforts.

Methods: Developed in consultation with dog training experts and the local regional council Leave It was based on input from 41 dog owners. Leave It was a 4-week training program priced at AUD$150 that was delivered by local dog trainers who had previously received specialized koala aversion training.

Findings: Co-design results indicated that the social marketing pilot program needed to emphasize training, be positive, and be dog and not koala-focused. A fun, positive dog-focused event, supported by dog retailers, entertainers, and food service providers, was held in June 2017 to launch the Leave It program. Outcome evaluations for Leave It indicated a statistically significant increase in wildlife aversion–related behaviors (stay, come back every time/some of the time, and stay quiet on command). Process evaluation indicated that people enjoyed the dog-focused event and the opportunity to seek training and obedience advice.

Conclusions: Co-designing the program with dog owners in the local council area engaged community members, making them contributors rather than program participants. The program had a dog focus rather than wildlife focus as recommended by dog owners.

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SOCIAL MARKETING QUARTERLY
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25
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1
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Health services and systems
Public health
Marketing
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