An estimated 140 000 dogs are used worldwide in research and testing every year. Although there is a growing trend of providing more complex environments for laboratory dogs, worldwide much dog husbandry and care fails to incorporate what is known about their natural behaviour and their behavioural and welfare needs. With this in mind, the BVAAWF/FRAME/RSPCA/UFAW joint Working Group on Refinement set out to identify and document ways in which dog husbandry and care can be refined to make significant reductions in suffering and improvements in animal welfare. The Working Group's report contains recommendations on housing and on physical environment, food and feeding, environmental enrichment and exercise, health and hygiene, identification and record keeping, breeding, balancing supply and demand, grouping, transport, handling and restraint, procedures, long-term use, rehoming, staff training, and areas for future research for refining dog husbandry and care. Advice is also given on interpreting dog signals, preventing and managing aggression, and controlling noise in dog facilities. Particular emphasis is placed on providing an enriched environment for dogs which permits them to express a wide range of normal behaviour and to exercise a degree of choice, and on combining this with a socialization, habituation and training programme. Together these measures should significantly reduce and/or eliminate fear-elated behavioural responses and stereotypic behaviours. They will also have a positive effect on the behavioural development of the dogs, helping to ensure that calm, confident, and well-adjusted individuals are issued to the end-use areas. This in turn will assist in the collection of reliable and accurate experimental data from dog studies and will avoid unnecessary wastage of life. The report represents a valuable resource for staff training. It should be read and thought about, and the recommendations acted upon, by all those involved with the management, care and use of dogs bred and used for research and testing. Where standards fall below those detailed here, a programme of improvement should be put in place. This should aim to achieve a proper balance between conspecific and human social interaction for dogs, and provide pens and other environments developed with an understanding of the natural behaviours of the dog, and empathetic personnel trained and competent to care for them. Employing a canine behaviour specialist can help to achieve these aims. It may be necessary for managers of facilities to rethink the way that dog husbandry and care has been practised in the past in order to allocate the time, staffing and funding required to implement the programme. Only through sincere commitment, adequate resources and sufficient will to change can significant reductions in suffering and improvements in animal welfare be guaranteed.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jul 2004|