Shelter dog welfare: Collaborating for animal welfare

Date: 2018/09/14


Good animal welfare is important for all animals - blog post by WAZA Director of Animal Welfare Sabrina Brando


Making a difference for all animals. Good animal welfare is important for all animals, whether you are a rhino, bearded dragon, macaw, cow, or dog. The Royal Dutch Society for the Protection of Dogs (RDSPD), University of Stirling, Duerinck Consultancy and WAZA joined forces with the aim of improving the welfare of dogs in Dutch shelters.


WAZA Director of Animal Welfare Sabrina Brando and Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith from the University of Stirling published in 2017 a paper on "The 24/7 approach to promoting optimal welfare for captive wild animals". Humans are an inevitable part of the lives of all captive animals, be they zoo-housed, companion, working, laboratory or farmed animals. The premise of the 24/7 animal welfare concept is to consider, map out and research whether the needs and wants of the individual animals under human care are being met, 24/7 across the lifespan. Highlights of the paper include:

• New holistic conceptual framework in caring for captive wild animals 24/7 across lifespan is proposed.
• Considers individual's life cycle needs and preferences influenced by a range of variations. 

  • An animal welfare assessment tool with 14 welfare criteria is proposed.

• Highlights importance of habitat management and use of technologies.


A workshop for zoo-housed animals was developed which revolves around the natural history of an animal, biology, ecology and diet, sensory systems, natural habitat, social structure, major life history events, activity patterns, and human-animal interactions as some of the many topics to be considered when developing species-specific animal welfare programs. Looking at the life cycle of a species, we find different life stages commonly divided into birth, baby, juvenile, adolescence, reproductive age, senescence and death. When we consider different life stages we can identify key features and considerations likely to be of importance to the welfare of the species. To manage a species appropriately in captivity, it is important to find out about each of these key considerations and develop a management plan accordingly. 


Many of the animal welfare principles in this workshop were adapted from work conducted on farm animals. In 2017 Hannah and Sabrina worked with the Royal Dutch Society for the Protection of Dogs (RDSPD) and independent researcher Suzy Deurinck to adapt the workshop to suit to assess and improve the welfare of shelter-housed dogs in the Netherlands. Prior to the workshop Suzy Deurinck collected data to gain insight on routines, opportunities and challenges of caring for dogs in one shelter. On Tuesday the 4th of September Sabrina led a workshop in the Netherlands on 24/7 concepts of animal welfare, discussing animal welfare from a broad science and practical perspective using examples from zoos and aquariums, as well as farm, laboratory and companion animals. The workshop was fully booked, and 35 delegates from 10 different shelters worked on the workshop in small groups. To conclude the day the groups were asked to provide a few ideas for immediate improvement in the shelter or category (e.g. caring for elderly dogs, high energy dogs) they focused on. All groups have until the end of September to submit their ideas. A jury will review the submitted ideas and a prize sponsored by the RDSPD for best idea, the most effective and, where possible, country wide opportunity for change, will be awarded on the 4th of October, World Animal Day. 


Whether we care for wild animals in zoos and aquariums, companion animals in our home, or animals who find themselves in shelters, laboratories or farms, there are always opportunities care, to collaborate. To share science, best practice, to have empathy and compassion, to think about how we can make a difference for animal regardless of where they are. Sabrina lives with the philosophy of ‘I see you' - to see all animals, domesticated or wild, visible or in places which are often hidden from the public eye. To keep in mind that we can make a difference, to ask every day, "Have you enriched a life today?" Many zoos and aquariums are active in urban and other wildlife conservation, in local and overseas animal welfare programs, and your knowledge can also brighten the lives of animal in local shelters or rescue centers.



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