Accomplishing
animal welfare-
a proposal
Understanding and accomplishing animal welfare  (c) 2016-2017 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 attention.

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-evaluated 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 positive 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 most 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 theUnited
Stateswith 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 as 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.

References
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
"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."
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.  
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."
Madeline Deaton
Windy Gig
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"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."
Tim Dorr
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen

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