Animal Welfare
-a proposal
Understanding and accomplishing animal welfare
copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen.  All rights reserved.

The human history of caring for the animals we keep and domestication might
have had its beginnings in the simple desire to be close to an animal unlike us;
whether that desire sprang from hunger, curiosity or potential companionship.  
From hunting animals for food sources to partnering with them for what help
they might provide us, to those which returned our interest in companionship
to domesticating those that approached us the least fearfully, we have put into
place both good and bad ways to maintain these animals in our lives.

A contemporary look at animal keeping bypasses the shepherd and his flock with
his attendant “shepherd” dog for assistance or of semi-feral cats keeping the rats
away from our grain.  While we can still find these scenarios their numbers pale
in contrast to the vast millions of animals we now house who are cared for
mechanically or by a handful of attendants.  The animals we consider here live
in the context of a mostly man-made environment, whether they be the
companion animals we live with or other domesticated animals that we keep
on our land, in intensive farming, in research facilities, zoos, sanctuaries and
aquaria, etc. In all of these environments we dictate every aspect of how these
animals live from the physical space they get to live in whether it is a cage,
pen, stall, room, yard or house.  We dictate where they can rest and on what,
concrete or soil, bedding of the sort of materials they themselves might choose
in a natural environment or man made, cleaned and how often (or not).  We
dictate how comfortable and restorative that rest and sleep will be depending
on whatever natural sleep/wake cycles they might have by controlling light
and dark and the noises that  surround them.  We dictate what they eat and
when they eat it, which animals they are next  to, if they can socialize or not,
whether they can rear their young, or pick their mates, the list goes on.  And
as we know or are learning, sometimes we do a better job of it for the animals
in our care than others. Sometimes we care about that and sometimes we don’t.

Advances in farming practices and zoo keeping protocols have progressed slowly,
painfully and at the cost of multiple fatalities and of abject suffering for many
animals.  In the past, basic husbandry requirements of diet, shelter, lifestyle,
family and social structures were mostly  unknown, neglected, or ignored.  A
look at the early days of procuring animals for zoos is a gruesome account of
animals perishing in transit from the stress of capture, improper handling,
confinement and malnutrition.  Animals did not necessarily fare better
arriving at zoos where carnivores might be fed cereal and desert animals
housed in cold and exposed climates, oftentimes the basic needs of all species
for dens, burrows, cover or even basic shelter was denied.  As formal knowledge
of an animal’s biological needs developed and as animal care workers learned how
to supply those basic needs, animals benefited.  Then, as now, we know that even
with the wealth of growing knowledge available, advances that were made or
have been made are not universally applied, practiced or legally required.

Without a doubt, undertaking the study of how to best care for animals before
taking them from their natural environments would have spared the cost many
animal lives not to mention the cost of their great emotional distress and suffering
or the great expenditure of human efforts with its own cost in fatalities and
expense. There is little defense for this other than for a lack of knowledge and the
custom and practices of the times.  For today, in the world we live in, we are
surrounded by an explosion of new research and exciting initiatives addressed
to the question of how we can do better for animals and we are starting to pay

In the midst of this ever growing conversation about how and why animals
“matter” to us, the way we think about, work with, study or interact with
animals is changing along with our standards for animal husbandry. Our
focus has increased from attending to simple biological needs to attempting to
allow for emotional needs and natural behaviors.  We now acknowledge that
good animal care is more than making sure an animal is fed, sheltered and
disease free; we take into account the individual experience of an animal in
their environment (“animal welfare”)-  making sure animals have what they
want and need.  We weigh our own interactions with animals (“human animal
relationship”) into the welfare equation.   We quantify and measure how to
make sure our newer standards are put into effect, we have “five freedoms”
and “five domains,” among other categories, lists, charts and checklists, all
meticulously documented, carefully researched and exemplified so they are
ready to go.

But how do we make all this happen in real life?  How do we go beyond sheer
theory:  the very idea that animal welfare does matter for the animals and
for us?  How do we mainstream the scientific studies that show us the
relationships that increased welfare makes for healthier animals and better
outcomes into recognition and practice that applying these standards works?  
Most importantly, how do we go from the talking to the doing?  How does all
this get done in the everyday world of the work, chores and tasks that need
doing for the farmhand, the stockperson, the zookeeper, the dog or horse
trainer, the dog groomer or pet sitter?

Attention to animal welfare is not a recent phenomenon; 2,300 years ago,
Xenophon, a Greek historian and soldier, wrote
The Art of Horsemanship, a classic
on riding and caring for horses, rich with admonitions on caring for colts who
might be frightened such as: “he should be taught, not by irritating but by
soothing him, there is nothing to fear” or  prudent advice for grooming and
handling: “Compulsion and blows inspire only the more fear; for when horses
are at all hurt at such time, they think that what they shied at is the cause of
the hurt.”   In more modern times, as early as 1959, William Russell and Rex
Burch introduced the concept of “The Three R’s” or “Replacement, Reduction
and Refinement” relating to research animals.  “Replace,” the use of animals
in research, “Reduce,” the number of animals used to gain information and
“Refine,” the methods so pain, distress and suffering is alleviated or minimized
and welfare is enhanced.   As valid and important as their work was, it was
far from universally accepted or applied.  Today, we are in a welcome advent
of ever increasing acknowledgement of animal sentience, cognition and
growing awareness of the importance of good animal welfare.  Current
thinking has advanced more successful models such as “The Five Freedoms”
and “The Five Domains” introduced in the early 1990’s.

A forerunner in the defining of animal welfare standards for intensive farming,
“The Five Freedoms,” was published by John Webster in 1993.  The standards
outlined basic freedoms from negative states of “thirst, hunger, malnutrition,
discomfort, exposure, pain, injury, disease, fear and distress” and “the freedom
to express normal behavior” and the provisions to accomplish them:  “By
providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour”,  
“an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area”,
“prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment”, “ensuring conditions and
treatment which avoid mental suffering” and “sufficient space, proper facilities
and company of the animal’s own kind.”  The Five Freedoms were revolutionary
in detailing an animal’s subjective experience and need to express natural
behavior along with signposts of how to accomplish welfare.  And most
significantly, they were widely embraced.  The animal sheltering community
used the system to illustrate what appropriate pet care looked like for prospective
adopters.  And while compliance was voluntary, rating systems and programs
were instituted throughout the farming industry.  A visit to a large natural
foods chain store in the United States shows meat packages labeled with
progressive “steps’ to evidence the conditions the animals are kept in.  An
issue with the system might be the lack of the consumers’ understanding
of just what these steps signify.

At about the same time as The Five Freedoms were introduced, David Mellor
and C. S. W. Reid published welfare standards designed for research animals in
1994.   “The Five Domains Model,” outlined survival related factors such as
1) Nutrition, 2) Environment 3) Health and situation related factors such as
4) Behavior and affective experience domains such 5) Mental State.   The Five
Domains gave specific examples of negatives in each domain; e.g. “restricted
water and food and poor food quality” for nutrition or “uncomfortable or
unpleasant physical features or environment” along with positives such
as “healthy, fit and/or injured” for health or “ability to express rewarding
behaviours” for Behaviour.  In this model overall welfare is determined by
the animal’s mental state, with hopefully more positive experiences, which
include “drinking pleasure,” “goal-directed engagement,” or “ affectionate
sociability,” than negative experiences among those such as "chilling/
overheating,” “Breathlessness,” or “Boredom/helplessness.”

No matter whether the Five Freedoms or Five Domains or a combination of both;
practical standards that animal care workers apply can ensure good animal welfare
provided we can practice, learn it and make it happen for animals. Again, it is not
in the talking it is in the doing that we improve and enhance animal welfare. David
Mellor reintroduced the Five Domains model in 2016 as a more effective one than
the Five Freedoms due to its reliance on an animal’s feeling state as a basis for good
welfare.  John Webster’s response achingly reminds us that our actions where
animals are concerned are the most significant:

    “The Five Freedoms are much simpler (perhaps too simple for scientists) but
    are based on fundamental, timeless principles that do not need to be re-eval-
    uated in the light of new research. They do not attempt to achieve an overall
    picture of mental state and welfare status. They are intended as no more than
    a memorable set of signposts to right action.   Since, so far as the animals are
    concerned, it is not what we think or feel but what we do that counts, I suggest
    that they are likely to have more impact on, and be of more use to, everybody
    else—and that includes the animals.”

Research in animal welfare science continues to grow, progress, and evolve and
offers more models, constructs, concepts, and measurements in caring for animals
along with applied methodologies to accomplish it.  Having science squarely on the
side of good animal welfare is a brilliant thing but without having the humans
formally educated as to foundational theories and trained in applying them we
are back where we started with zoo keeping or very close to it.

Formally learning basic husbandry as it relates to different animals requires
learning the natural history of each species, the process of domestication for each,
their unique biology and how to supply those certain biological needs along with
individual “umwelt” or how the animal experiences the world.  Affection for
animals in general is a good place to begin as long as this affection is for what
we can do for animals in providing care: cleaning cages, changing water bottles,
feeding at scheduled times, as opposed to our fondness for how animals make us
feel, what they look like or what they can do for us.  So is fascination for the
subject matter of how different these species are from our own including
recognition of how differently each animal experiences their own world and
reacts to it.  Working with companion animals may be thought of as easier
than working with farm or research animals yet presents similar challenges.  
Individuals entering the pet care services field typically have an avid interest
and desire to work with animals and may expect that working with companion
animals is similar to their experience of caring for a familiar pet. The actual
work of caring for any animal including companion animals is often not
congruent with expectations.  The work involves a good deal of manual labor
in loud and odiferous environments and is not easy.  Other people’s animals
do not respond to groomers or handlers with ease, comfort or familiarity for
any number of reasons, including being fearful of the stranger working with
them along with the stranger’s lack of an informed approach.

There is an ever present danger in working with animals and expecting human
responses from non-humans.  For instance, moving animals from one place to
another requires knowledge of both the mechanics of how they move and what
motivates the movement which differs for dogs, horses, pigs, goats, chicken, etc.
It also requires a degree of respect for the differences between species and catering
to those differences. Anger and lashing out at scared pigs or frightened dogs that
do not move when requested to do so may be due to the consequences of
reductively thinking that they are after all only “pigs” and “dogs” with all the
inherent misplaced hierarchal human judgment that can go along with that
assessment.  Human judgment goes into human animal relationships and has been
shown to be impacted by both the biases we bring to animal work as well as
learning.  As David Mellor writes:

    “Importantly, targeted cognitive-behavioural training can improve attitudes
    and behaviour towards animals, with consequent improvements in animal
    handling, welfare and, in the case of livestock, productivity [95]. The
    promotions of “lives worth living” among animals in human care and
    control must therefore include consideration of these key features of human
    influence. Finally, an additional related factor which often has significant
    welfare benefits, especially with “hands-on” management of small numbers
    of animals such as occurs in zoos, in the home and as part of recreational
    sporting activities, is the development of a close human–animal bond.”

Again, interest in how very different these species are by contrast to our own helps
to engage the worker, student of animal welfare and the researcher.  Mostly, we are
not talking about primates with their unique nutritional requirements, biology,
physiology, behavior and dominant visual sense, despite any manifest similarities.  
Take cows and horses, both prey animals, herbivores who live in social groups but
in this case, knowing where to stand and approach each so not to inadvertently
threaten (such as, for a cow, behind them or a horse, on the side of them) comes
from knowing basics of the animals sensory perception along with whether they
kick straight back when threatened as a horse does or out to the side as a cow does,
etc.  We have to learn species specific differences, individual differences, needs,
possible wants and feelings and the appropriate interaction /handling by
humans.  Caring for cattle is different from caring for chickens or caring for cats.  
Recognizing good welfare and how to provide it for different species and valuing it
is not an intuitive process rather it is a learned one.  Susan J. Hazel writes about
teaching the importance of the applied (–what it looks like, how to do it) aspect of
animal welfare in animal and veterinary sciences:

    “When ensuring students are adequately prepared to work with animals, it is
    necessary to not only pay attention to what is taught, but also how it is taught.
    In the past teaching was considered simply a passive transfer of knowledge
    from an instructor to a student. However, it is now acknowledged deeper
    learning is required for professional graduates to be able to not only know,
    but also apply and use the information they have acquired. Traditional
    lectures allow more academic students to learn at this deeper level as they
    put in extra effort, but less academic students will only learn at a deeper level
    when teaching methods are optimised.  Such optimisation includes active
    teaching methods, in which students must interpret and apply their new
    knowledge in the activity.”

Without formal training to empower animal care providers with the skill and
knowledge to apply the latest advances in providing animal care we cannot expect
good animal welfare for our animals; even in this brave, new world of defining,
advancing and implementing science based animal welfare practices.  Ironically,
the greatest advances in our conversation and practice concerning animal welfare
may be in intensive farming and research animal settings, neither industry is
famed for its humane treatment of animals but there is in these industries the
most hope simply because there is the most density and therefore the most
attention.  We lack empathy for our own captive zoo animals and companion
animals if we do not turn similar attention to these and other comparable
industries caring, servicing and keeping animals.

A look at the pet care services industries shows a multi billion dollar business
where the suggestion rather than the requirement of good animal welfare practices
keep it healthy and robust.  Consider one of the largest cities with pet owning
constituents, New York:  The New York City Economic Development Corporation
estimates 1.1 million pets in NYC, putting dogs at 600,000 and cats at 500,000.  
They note pet care services in the city have  "experienced some of the fastest growth
rates of any industry in both the city and the nation.  From 2000 to 2010,
employment in the pet-related industry grew by more than 30% locally and
nationally, reflecting both growth in the pet population and increased spending
per pet by households. We further estimate that spending in this industry in New
York City exceeded $1.5 billion in 2010 or roughly $1,350 per pet."

Pet care services are a virtually unregulated, from food, retail products and services
supplied by people to pets.  In the United States, no training of any kind is required
to work in any capacity with an animal, save as a veterinarian or veterinary
technician. In NYC, the Health Department administers and requires a three day
course in pet care and animal handling for a pet services establishment.  Only one
staff member who has taken the course is required to be on site.  This means,
multiple staff members may be working at any given time without any formal
training.  Further, there are no requirements as to how many dogs a pet care
worker may work with at one time (e.g., a doggy day care may employ one
handler to supervise 1 dog, 5 dogs or 30 dogs).  Staffing ratios of handler to
dogs are often dictated by profit concerns as opposed to how many handlers
can reasonably work with a set number of dogs to insure the animal's safety
and welfare.

Assuredly, pet owners who patronize dog groomers, trainers, doggy day cares,
kennels and the like are by definition looking for services to insure the welfare of
their pets.  These businesses are often selected based on a perception that the
service is the best available, at a reasonable price and in a convenient location.
Part of what is being purchased is “peace of mind,” whether for the dog owner
who might worry that a dog is bored, lonely or in need of a walk when the
owner is away from home for 12 hours a day or for good grooming with
stress free handling or effective force free training.

Field observations of the management of multiple dogs in day cares shows this
is mostly accomplished through impoverished environments or barren, empty
rooms which allow minimal interactions with other dogs and even less with
objects in their environment.  There is often little for the dogs to do in these spaces.  
Barking is often discouraged and play is often prevented simply because it is often
not recognized by staff who mistake it for fighting.  It is customary for one
individual to work with up to 30 dogs and greatly utilize punishment to
control the pets in their care.  Boredom and overcrowding typically result in
a number of stress related behaviors ranging from internalized stress to
displacement behaviors which may include but not be limited to coprophagia
(feces eating), fighting or repetitive mounting.  It is not unusual for workers to
spray dogs with water bottles, scruff them, roll them over, or place them in
extended isolation (“time out”) in response.  The use of ill timed force and
punishment are the most frequently observed and utilized management
techniques.  Conversations with management in field observations have
elicited responses as to the belief that these strategies are the most
effective ones.

Dog trainers, groomers and pet sitters often learn handling techniques by
trial, error and guesswork with no guarantee that there intuition is correct or
welfare focused.  Compulsion dog training with the use of force is experiencing a
resurgence of popularity. Research into aversive methods of dog training show that
dogs will typically exhibit fear based behaviors around trainers who use force.  
This fearful behavior in itself may be offered by these trainers that their methods
proffer “results.”  Individuals wanting to learn dog grooming at an actual brick and
mortar school can complete a two or three month private school training course.  
However, due to the brevity of the training and lack of instruction on stress free
restraint methodologies or handling protocols there is a resulting over reliance on
restraint such as muzzles, ties and aversive handling.  Stress of this sort may cause
a dog to submit to a grooming session but will cause more defensive resistance on
successive grooming sessions.

There is no accurate count of the number of individuals purchasing education
services for animal centered learning although the steady and continued existence
of multiple providers existing attests to continued demand.  Multiple online courses
available offer various interpretations of learning theory without an applied
component; learners are referred to usually one single applied practical internship
to complete a ”hands on” portion of training.  While internships are traditionally
where applied skills are developed and are best effective when training takes place
in concert with educational standards and under licensed professionals, pet care
workers who  intern at a pet care facility often receive varied, inconsistent or
incorrect training.

A virtual mish mash of multiple private self accrediting organizations grant
certificates with no shared educational standards or government oversights when it
comes to dog training, if a care provider even possesses such a “certificate”.   An
examination of what passes for preparation and training and a call for formal
education for people employed in training working dogs comes not from the United
States, with our hugely profitable pet industry, but from Australia.  Mia Cobb
writes most eloquently:

    “Currently, a significant and abiding weakness of the Australian Working
    Dog Industry, with significant implications for working dog welfare, is
    that its knowledge base resides predominantly at the level of the individual
    dog trainer. It has previously been stated that “much of the training of
    greyhounds is based on knowledge handed down over time, and often this
    methodology is out of date, flawed or unacceptable in today’s society”
    (Beer, Willson & Stephens, 2008). Given the maturity of information
    technology and information management systems, it is incumbent
    upon the industry itself to consolidate disparate learning resources into
    a shared knowledge base and provide opportunities for its dissemination.
    It is time that the Australian Working Dog Industry sought external
    validation of existing professional expertise. Such a process offers the
    opportunity for the existing skill base to be formally recognised.”

Pet owners patronizing pet care services establishments are typically not aware of
any negative practices being utilized in concert with their animals.  It is highly
questionable s to whether they would continue to patronize establishments were
they truly aware of the lack of welfare based practices.  Lack of regulations and
a profit driven market with the freedom to exploit what a pet owner might like to
believe in is being delivered add to unintentional oversights from the pet owners
and a boon for a private industry which can operate behind a closed curtain.  
Formalizing standards for animal welfare education for pet care service providers
can support a higher standard of care for companion animals and more ably
trained and educated workers in the field.

Establishing animal welfare science as a valid and robust field of inquiry supports
better care for animals as a requirement for keeping animals from natural living
environments and in built ones.  Now we have to educate and train the humans to
ably provide that care.

This article is an original work and is subject to copyright. You may create a link
to this article on another website or in a document back to this web page. You may
not copy this article in whole or in part onto another web page or document without
permission of the author. Email inquiries to info@animalbehaviorist.us

Webster, J. (2016). Animal Welfare: Freedoms, Dominions and "A Life Worth Living."  Animals, 6 (6) 35

David J. Mellor, D.J. (2016).  "Updating Animal Welfare Thinking: Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms”
towards “A Life Worth Living.”  Animals, 6, (3) 21

Hazel, Susan, J. (2013). “Promoting positive animal welfare in undergraduate teaching” RSPCA
Scientific  Seminar 2013 Proceedings, 14-21

Cobb, Mia (2013), “Working like a dog –affectively” RSPCA Scientific Seminar 2013 Proceedings, 22-31
Rob Bixby
"we dictate every aspect of how
these animals live from the
physical space they get to live
in whether it is a cage, pen, stall,
room, yard or house.  We dictate
where they can rest and on what,
concrete or soil, bedding of the
sort of materials they themselves
might choose in a natural
environment or man made,
cleaned and how often (or not).  
We dictate how comfortable
and restorative that rest and
sleep will be depending on
whatever natural sleep/wake
cycles they might have by
controlling light and dark
and the noises that surround
them.  We dictate what they
eat and when they eat it,
which animals they are next
to, if they can socialize or not,
whether they can rear their
young, or pick their mates,
the list goes on."
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Andrew Lorien
Jorge Elias

Request a presentation
"There is an ever present danger
in working with animals and
expecting human responses from
non-humans...  Anger and
lashing out at scared pigs or
frightened dogs that do not move
when requested to do so may be
due to the consequences of
reductively thinking that they
are after all only “pigs” and
“dogs” with all the inherent
misplaced hierarchal human
judgment that can go along
with that assessment."
Madeline Deaton
Windy Gig
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Tim Dorr
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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