Study reveals gap in owner knowledge

Lockdown measures have led many people to spend more time with their pets, at home, however, a lack of owner knowledge around the welfare needs of our domesticated animals came out as a top issue in a recent study which was commissioned by the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF).

The study, led by Professor Cathy Dwyer and the late Fiona C. Rioja Lang of Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, used a modified Delphi approach to help pinpoint the most pressing welfare issues of farm and companion animals in the UK.

The process incorporated a Delphi conference, two anonymous surveys and a final workshop to derive the overall priorities. Experts gave their opinion on each welfare issue considering severity, duration and perceived prevalence.

One hundred and 17 animal welfare experts were asked to survey and rank various issues and found that a gap in owner knowledge appeared to be the overarching theme across all eight of the domestic species they looked at, which included dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, poultry and pigs.

Professor Dwyer said: “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keepers that have inherited knowledge or where knowledge has been passed down through generations, information can be out of date, but it can be hard to change those approaches.”

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