Study highlights gap in owner knowledge around welfare needs
A new study commissioned by the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) has highlighted a gap in owner knowledge around the welfare needs of pets.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, used a modified 'Delphi' technique to identify the most pressing welfare issues of farm and companion animals in the UK.
Some 144 experts were involved in the study, divided between 10 species groups including cats, rabbits, dogs and horses. The experts were employed from an array of disciplines, including practising vets, academics, charity sector employees, industry representatives, and policy officials.
The experts found that while knowledge was available and known by researchers or vets, it was not always adequately communicated and understood by animal owners or keepers. In other cases, the information was not available, and more research was required.
They also found that external barriers that can prevent proper care such as economic factors, time and access restrictions. The findings are published on AWF's website.
Professor Cathy Dwyer, director of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre of Animal Welfare Education at the University of Edinburgh, commented: “Some potential animal owners do not give a lot of thought or do much research, before acquiring a pet, so sometimes have little real knowledge about what normal behaviour, responses and even feeding habits look like, and the potential costs, of their pets.
“There is also a lot of conflicting information about for owners, especially I think in the area of training, so it can be hard for owners to be sure that they are accessing good quality information. For animal keepers that have inherited knowledge or where knowledge has been passed down through generations, information can be out of date but it can be hard to change those approaches.”
AWF Chair of Trustees, Chris Laurence said that the charity will use to study to inform future work as well as to provide grants for further research in animal welfare.
“Resources for research into animal welfare issues are limited and the aim of this work was to highlight those that were the most significant to the animals concerned,” he explained. “It will help guide where the Animal Welfare Foundation directs its effort in the future, and we hope it will do so for other funding bodies and researchers too.
“We have already started to address some of the issues raised in a call for research projects and hope that we will be able to continue to address the major concerns raised in this paper. This is an incredibly complex piece of work which provides other professions in the animal health and welfare world some firm footing to address some of its conclusions.”