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Science-based assessment of animal welfare: companion animals

Author(s) : J.S.J. Odendaal

Summary :

Human history reveals that the way in which humans treat animals is based on their views of themselves as well as of the living environment around them. These views may vary from an assumption of human superiority to one of equality between humans and animals. Recent trends affecting companionanimal welfare are: modern philosophies on animal issues, the specialised and varied roles that companion animals play in modern societies, new results from animal neuroscience, human-animal interaction studies and the new profession of companion animal ethology. This paper concludes that applied ethology could provide science-based criteria to assess companion-animal welfare. Due to the integral part that companion animals play in human societies, the paper is divided into an animal component that deals with the animal’s basic needs and its ability to adapt, and a human component assessing the living environment of animals as provided by humans and responsible companion-animal ownership. The greatest challenge for future research is to find ways to disseminate knowledge of companion animal ethology to companion animal owners.

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