A cross sectional study was conducted between November, 2008 and April, 2009 to evaluate (observe) management practices and welfare problems of working equids at Hawassa town, Southern Ethiopia. Six hundred working equids were screened for various lesions on the skin. Sixty animal owners or users were interviewed about management practices. Among studied (observed) equids, 90% were draught, and 10% were pack animals. Fifty two percent (52%), 45 and 3% revealed a thin, medium and good body condition score, respectively. Lesions resulting from limb tethering (94.5%), lameness (89.2%), lesions affecting the lips (88.5%), girth/belly (81%), wither/spine (78.7%) and breast/shoulder (62.8%) were most frequently observed. Tail/tail base (79%), ribs/flank (81%), breast/shoulder (84.5%) and hind quarter (70.7%) lesions were significantly associated with pack type of work (p < 0.05), whereas lip lesion (89.7%) and lameness (91%) were associated with draught type of work (p < 0.05). Poor/thin body condition significantly correlated with wither/spine lesions (p < 0.05). According to respondents, the average daily working time was 7.9 ± 0.2 h with an average burden of 70 kg of goods and 3 persons. The average water supply at a time amounted to 5.75 ± 2.7 liters. Among respondents, 53.3% provided water three times per day, and 41.6% of them only two times/day. The average amount of provided feed was 12.2 ± 3.4 kg twice daily. Shelters were provided for all working equids at home, but only for a few experienced individuals were provision of shelter to equids at work sites. In addition, rubber shoeing was found to be of poorest quality, thus leading to high slip hazard. In conclusion, even though owners/users take care of their animals, a great number of lesions associated with work type and body condition were noted. This finding shows that working equids experience multiple welfare problems in the study area.
Key words: Equids, work type, management, welfare problems, Hawassa, Ethiopia.
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