Who let the dogs out? Exploring the spatial ecology of free‐roaming domestic dogs in western Kenya

The spatial ecology of free‐roaming dogs determines their role in the transmission of zoonoses. This study describes the geographic range of and identifies sites frequently visited by free‐roaming domestic dogs in western Kenya. Eight sites in Busia county, western Kenya, were selected. At each site, ten dog‐keeping households were recruited, a questionnaire was administered, and a GPS logger was fixed around the neck of one dog in each household. Loggers were programmed to capture the dog's position every minute, for five consecutive days. Individual summaries of GPS recordings were produced, and the daily distance traveled was calculated. 50% and 95% utilization distribution isopleths were produced, and the area within these isopleths was extracted to estimate the size of the core and extended Home Ranges (HRs), respectively. Linear regression analyses were performed to identify factors associated with the movement parameters. The centroid points of the 10, 50, and 90% isopleths were reproduced, and the corresponding sites identified on the ground. Seventy‐three dogs were included in the final analyses. The median daily distance traveled was 13.5km, while the median core and extended HRs were 0.4 and 9.3 ha, respectively. Older dogs had a larger extended HR and traveled more daily, while the effect of sex on dog movement depended on their neutering status. Dogs spent most of their time at their household; other frequently visited sites included other household compounds, fields, and rubbish dumps. One of the centroids corresponded to a field located across the international Kenya–Uganda border, emphasizing the fluidity across the border in this ecosystem. Multiple dogs visited the same location, highlighting the heterogeneous contact networks between dogs, and between dogs and people. The field data presented are of value both in understanding domestic dog ecology and resource utilization, and in contextualizing infectious and parasitic disease transmission models.