Introduction + Global animal welfare: challenges and opportunities
GLOBAL ANIMAL WELFARE: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Dr Susan Hazel BVSc, BSc(Vet), PhD, GradCert(Public Health), GradCert(Higher Education)
School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide, Australia email@example.com
Small animals play integral parts in people’s lives around the globe, including as companions and in working roles. While they improve the well-being of the people whose lives they enrich, the well-being of these animals is not always optimal. Some welfare issues may be solved through education into the basic needs and ability to cope of our companion animals; others such as the pet trade and breeding of animals with functional problems (e.g. brachycephalic animals) require collaborative research including social science approaches. Through further research and education using an evidence based approach, we can continue to enrich the lives of both humans and small animals.
Development of WSAVA Animal Welfare Guidelines
The WSAVA recognize that improving small animal welfare is an important goal around the world. In 2018 the WSAVA Animal Welfare Guidelines were launched1. While it can be challenging to define what animal welfare means, the working definition used in these Guidelines is ‘the physical and psychological, social and environmental well-being of animals’. It is important to include psychological and social well-being, as people may restrict themselves to focus on the physical health of animals. Physical health is certainly important, but not sufficient in itself to maintain well-being. For example, a dog may be physically health, but if it is in a state of fear and anxiety for most of its days, then its overall well-being would be poor.
In March 2019 the WSAVA Animal Welfare Guidelines were endorsed by 37 WSAVA member organizations, and have reached their goal to focus global attention on improving the welfare of small animals in our care. While focusing attention on animal welfare, they are not intended to stand alone, but to be integrated with other WSAVA Guidelines, such as the Global Pain and Global Nutrition Guidelines.
As well as working with other veterinary specialties, it is important to remember promoting animal welfare involves complex interactions, not only between the veterinary team, the animal, and the owner, but also involving the wider community, with impacts of cultural values, economics, pet-related industries, the environment and politics (see Figure 4 WSAVA Global Animal Welfare Guidelines). This means to work on issues relating to animal welfare, interventions need to focus not only on the veterinary team and animal owner, but also the wider community with its cultural values.
Basic needs and ability to cope
Although the standard of veterinary care for companion animals has significantly increased around the world, it is important to remember that even in countries with highly developed and sophisticated veterinary care, the Five Welfare Needs of animals are not always being met. The Five Welfare Needs are:
The need for a suitable environment
The need for a suitable diet
The need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
In their latest survey of UK pet owners, the PDSA (2018) reported 16% of dogs were walked less than once a day, 24% were left alone for five or more hours on a typical workday, and 53% of cat owners matched images of their cat as being overweight or obese2.
Pet trade and companion animal welfare
Animal welfare does not begin when a new dog or cat enters the owner’s house, but well before in the breeding and early environment of the animal. Small animals can sell for large amounts of money, and unscrupulous breeders have the opportunity to make large amounts of money at the cost of the welfare of the animals. In the past the marketplace for unscrupulous breeders was relatively small, but with the introduction and wide adoption of the internet this has changed.
In Europe the internet is now the most common method used by people when they look for a new companion animal.3 Risks to the welfare of these animals include the sale of underage puppies and kittens, with health problems due to lack of routine worming and vaccination. Online scams are also common with significant amounts of money lost due to fraud. In Australia many dogs and cats are sold online, with thousands of these dogs and cats being relinquished animals looking for a new home.4 This can be a positive contribution in finding a new home, but risks specific to relinquishment include the new owners not knowing the true health and behavioral history of the animal, and of animal hoarders or people involved in dog fighting having ready access to free animals. Although data on online sales of companion animals in other regions, such as the USA and China, are currently lacking, it is likely online sales also represent a large proportion of trade in companion animals in these areas.
Breeding of animals with functional problems
The reasons people decide to purchase a specific type of small animal are complex, and include fads and fashion. Unfortunately, in recent years brachycephalic breeds of dogs and cats have become fashionable. A Danish survey asked owners of four dog breeds their reasons for acquiring that breed, finding that personality was sometimes perceived as more important than health or behavior.5 Veterinarians and other scientists need to play a role in testing brachycephalic dogs to provide information to breeders on the dogs that should or should not be bred from, and to use surgery to improve the lives of individual dogs seriously affected by breathing difficulties. A recent study demonstrated adding a 3 minute trot test could improve grading of brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome (BOAS).6
The concept of shifting baseline syndrome, used in ecology, is one that also needs to be considered in animal welfare. Shifting baseline syndrome (SBS) describes graduate change in accepted norms in the state of the natural environment due either to a lack of past information, or the lack of experiencing past conditions.7 For example, as the structure of the skull of brachycephalic dogs has gradually changed, each generation has accepted flatter and flatter faces as the norm. When one views images of breeds such as the British Bulldog from a hundred or more years ago, the dramatic change in structure is apparent, but each generation accepts the way the dogs look. In the same way, generations have come to accept difficulty in breathing as normal for these dogs. As SBS in ecology increases tolerance for progressive environmental degradation, SBS in animal welfare has resulted in people accepting breeds that are no longer functional in terms of health and welfare. Through recognition that this has occurred, we may still work to improve future breeding practices and well-being of these animals.
Opportunities to improve animal welfare
While the internet presents risks to animals, such as in online trade, it also presents the opportunity to highlight to the public major risks to the welfare of animals welfare, generating media attention that can change practices. This has occurred in recent years against the dog meat trade; use of electric collars in dog training, and; cosmetic procedures such as declawing in cats and tail docking and ear cropping in dogs.
Improved undergraduate education in animal welfare can help to lead the way to future incremental improvements. Veterinary education has covered animal welfare science more systematically in recent years, and veterinary graduates take this education out into their workplaces to improve standards of animal care. An example is in pain relief of small animals, which was not routinely performed in the past but is now an established part of veterinary practice. There is still a gap in acknowledgement of the emotional lives of small animals, and recognition of their signs of distress. However, through popular trends such as the fear free movement, this is beginning to change.
The WSAVA has focused attention on the welfare of small animals through release of Global Guidelines. There remain challenges to animal welfare around the world, including the online pet trade and popularity of brachycephalic breeds. As the world is more connected through the use of the internet and social media, these can be used to educate owners of the needs of their animals. It is also important to recognize the impact of shifting baseline syndrome on our recognition of welfare in animals. Continued education and promotion of animal welfare science will help to continue to improve the lives of the animals that live closest to us.
1. WSAVA Global Animal Welfare Guidelines. 2018 Available online: https://www.wsava.org/WSAVA/media/resources/Guidelines/WSAVA-Animal-Welfare-Guidelines-(2018).pdf
2. PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2018 Available online: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/4370/mini-paw-2018-web-ready.pdf
3. EU Dog & Cat Alliance®. Online Sale of Pets: What’s the Cost? Available online: https://www.dogandcatwelfare.eu/news/online-sale-pets-whats-cost/
4. Hazel SJ, Jenvey CJ and Tuke J. Online relinquishments of dogs and cats in Australia. Animals 2018 8(2), 25. doi.org/10.3390/ani8020025
5. Sandoe P, Kondrup SV, Bennett PC et al. (2017) Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds. PloS One https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172091
6. Riggs J, Liu, N-C, Sutton DR, Sargan MA, Ladlow JF Validation of exercise testing and laryngeal auscultation for grading brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome in pugs, French bulldogs, and English bulldogs by using whole‐body barometric plethysmography. Veterinary Surgery 2019 https://doi.org/10.1111/vsu.13159
7. Soga M. and Gaston KJ. Shifting baseline syndrome: causes, consequences, and implications. Front Ecol Environ 2018; 16(4): 222–230, doi: 10.1002/fee.1794
What do we mean by one welfare?
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “ONE WELFARE”?
David Fraser, CM, PhD
Animal Welfare Program
Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia
2357 Main Mall, Vancouver V6T 1Z4
For some years, the term “One Health” has been used to recognize “that human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist” (1), often with an emphasis on infectious diseases that can pass between humans and other species. More recently, the term “One Welfare” has been used to emphasize the many other links between animal welfare and human welfare, and to acknowledge that both depend on a well-functioning ecological environment (2, 3). But what exactly are these links?
Improving animal welfare to improve human welfare and vice versa
The most obvious connection is that improving animal welfare is often a way to improve human welfare, and vice versa.
In the case of draft animals, for example, simple steps to improve animal welfare include using well-designed harnesses that do not cause injuries, providing adequate nutrition, and using more efficient carts so that energy is not wasted. One expert estimated that paying attention to these issues could greatly increase the working power of the animals and thus improve the owners’ livelihood (4).
Other examples come from programs of animal and human rehabilitation that involve cooperation between animal shelters and prisons. In a typical case, dogs that are deemed unadoptable because of serious behaviour problems are assigned to carefully selected prisoners who work intensively to calm, train and socialize the dogs so that they can be adopted or even become assistance animals. In addition to benefiting the dogs, the program is said to be very beneficial for the prisoners by helping them develop responsibility, patience, tolerance and empathy, and gain a sense of satisfaction through service.
With food-producing animals there are many cases where improving animal welfare brings benefits to people. For example, good handling methods can improve growth and reproduction by reducing animal stress; good nutrition can improve the efficiency of growth; and safe, comfortable environments can prevent injuries (5). Moreover, the reverse is also true: when people suffer from drought, famine or poverty, they are often unable to provide well for their animals, so improving the welfare of people can be a crucial step in allowing them to provide good welfare for their animals.
The need for coordinated action
One Welfare also underlines the need for veterinary and animal protection services to be coordinated with human health and related services to achieve better outcomes for both animal and human welfare.
Decades of research have shown that people who are violent toward animals are often violent to other people. For example, a study of over 100 women escaping from violent partners found that these women were nearly 11 times more likely to report that their partner had hurt or killed pets than a comparison group of women, and in some cases the threat of harm to the animals was so severe that women delayed escaping from violent partners because of fears for the animals’ safety (6). Thus, animal welfare, domestic violence and child welfare agencies need to cooperate because the first person to see an abused child may be an animal welfare inspector acting on a complaint, and if a domestic-violence shelter does not partner with a shelter for pets, then victims may not use their services.
A topic that has received much less research is the neglect of animals and the role of human mental health (7, 8). As one example, a study in Ireland followed thirteen people who had been charged with neglect. It found that in five cases, the underlying problem was failing health or senility, and another four cases involved depression or other mental distress resulting from divorce or other personal difficulties (8). The conclusion was that in the majority of cases, we need to bring together animal welfare and human welfare agencies in order to solve the problems.
The hoarding of animals is another serious animal welfare problem with strong links to human mental health. Veterinarian Gary Patronek has identified classic hoarders as people who accumulate a large number of animals that overwhelm their ability to provide even minimal care, fail to acknowledge the deteriorating condition of the animals and the environment, and fail to recognize the negative effect on their own health and wellbeing. Such hoarding is now seen as a distinct form of mental illness (“Hoarding Disorder”) that often involves other conditions including depression, social phobia and generalized anxiety. The clear message is that to address this problem of animal welfare requires attention also to the mental health of the offender. If the animal welfare intervention is not accompanied by mental health intervention, the problem is likely to be repeated.
The need to coordinate animal welfare and human welfare is also clear in disaster relief. During Hurricane Katrina, for example, many people refused to evacuate from danger unless they could assure the safety of their pets. This became such an issue during Hurricane Katrina that the USA now has protocols in place for rescue of pets in disaster relief.
Protecting the environment is fundamental to both human and animal welfare
Finally, protecting the environment is fundamental for both human and animal welfare.
For example, the introduction of invasive species into places where they cannot be absorbed into a functioning ecological system can cause enormous economic loss and other hardship for people, combined with incalculable hardship for the native animals that often die of disease, starvation or extreme competition.
Pollution also affects human and animal welfare. For example, a review of coastal dead zones – areas of ocean where nutrient loading leads to a lack of oxygen and suffocation of fish – concluded that dead zones now affect a total area of more than 245,000 square kilometers and cause mass mortality to aquatic animals (9), often with severe effects on local fisheries.
Similarly, climate change and associated extreme weather affect people and animals alike. Indeed the effects of climate change are predicted to be so severe as to drive a significant percentage of the world’s wild species to extinction (10).
The above problems – ecological collapse, pollution and extinction of species – are often viewed as problems of conservation, not animal welfare. Indeed, animal welfare and conservation have traditionally functioned as different spheres of activity, and sometimes they come into conflict, for example over predator control. But as these examples show, many harms to the environment are major threats to both conservation and animal welfare, and the two movements need to work together to address them. In fact, I believe we are now in a century when protecting the life-sustaining processes of nature is a major challenge for both human and animal welfare.
As a concept, One Welfare serves as a call to recognize the many interconnections between human welfare, animal welfare and the integrity of the environment. In practical terms it is also a call to improve animal welfare in order to improve human welfare and vice versa, to co-ordinate actions between veterinary and human medical services, and to protect the environment in order to promote both human and animal welfare.
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The gold standard of animal welfare - positive and negative impact on animals and veterinarians
Abstract BodyAnimal Welfare and veterinary ethics – Global challenges for animals and veterinarians
Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education,
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute,
University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Campus Roslin, EH25 9RG
Animal welfare is an area of increasing interest to the global veterinary community. Because of their role in animal health and disease, veterinarians are perceived by society to be experts in animal welfare, and are expected to make judgements about the welfare of animals both in their care and beyond (Siegford, et al. 2010). Additionally both the Federation of Vets of Europe (FVE) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) state that
“Veterinarians are, and must continually strive to be, the leading advocates for the good welfare of animals in a continually evolving society”(FVE-AVMA 2011).
However, this expectation also presents many challenges for our profession. Historically, veterinarians have not been well-trained in the science of animal welfare, and the robust application of veterinary ethics may be lacking across the curriculum. In some countries, veterinarians are still trained by performing aversive procedures on animals, (Patronek & Rauch 2007). Such practices may have a harmful impact on students attitudes to animals (Paul & Podberscek 2000) and on their learning experience (Balcombe 1997, Hart, et al. 2005, Martinsen & Jukes 2005), potentially leading to objectification and reduced empathy.
Accepted standards of veterinary ethics may sometimes clash with regional or cultural ethical viewpoints around the acceptability of different veterinary procedures such as amputation or euthanasia. In some areas a lack of veterinary regulation may create confusion about the role and responsibilities of veterinarians, and variations in drug availability and licensing may present challenges in anaesthesia and analgesia which contrast with the increasing professional interest in ever more complex veterinary procedures. These multiple and complex issues influence the ways in which we as veterinarians value and treat the animals that we are responsible for. By understanding the interplay between our own ethical decision-making and our impacts on the welfare of the animals we’re responsible for, we can strive to safeguard animal welfare even in challenging situations.
More guidance may be found at:
Balcombe J 1997 Student/teacher conflict regarding animal dissection. The American Biology Teacher: 22-25.
FVE-AVMA FoViEaAVMA 2011 Joint Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) - American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Statement on The Roles of Veterinarians in Ensuring Good Animal Welfare, p^pp
Hart LA, Wood MW, and Weng HY 2005 Mainstreaming alternatives in veterinary medical education: Resource development and curricular reform. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 32: 473-480.
Martinsen S, and Jukes N 2005 Towards a humane veterinary education. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 32: 454.
Patronek GJ, and Rauch A 2007 Systematic review of comparative studies examining alternatives to the harmful use of animals in biomedical education. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 230: 37-43.
Paul ES, and Podberscek AL 2000 Veterinary education and students' attitudes towards animal welfare. The Veterinary record 146: 269-272.
Siegford JM, Cottee SY, and Widowski TM 2010 Opportunities for Learning about Animal Welfare from Online Courses to Graduate Degrees. J Vet Med Educ 37: 49-55.