Master of Science in Animal Welfare and Behavior Capstone Projects




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Now showing 1 - 10 of 18
  • Publication
    Utilizing Cinematic Stories to Shift Fear Into Compassion Towards Pit Bull Type Breeds
    (2022-01-01) Wagner, Natalie
    Creating entertaining yet educational stories to cultivate curiosity in caring for animals can improve animal welfare as well as our own public health under a One Health initiative. More specifically, tailoring well-crafted cinematic stories utilizing thoughtful anthropomorphism about misunderstood dog breeds such as pit bulls can potentially debunk sensationalized media myths surrounding their reputation. Further research is worth pursuing on how an anthropomorphic film with an emotional arc utilizing a non-aggressive pit bull character can decrease a population's previous concerns of “scary” dog breeds discriminated against under breed specific legislation while also championing the use of particular films as moral educators. While the pilot data showed both positive and negative trends in subjects’ perceptions of pit bulls, “scary” dog breeds, and animal sentience after watching the film Kitbull, emotional cinematic stories and the content within those stories matter. We as animal welfare scientists and media professionals must work in collaboration to create truthful yet compelling stories utilizing anthropomorphism more thoughtfully so that we may nurture an audience’s empathy and compassion towards misunderstood animals in society. By increasing our efforts in improving domesticated dog welfare with a focus on debunking societal myths about mislabeled “dangerous” dog breeds such as the pit bull through motion picture stories, we not only better animal and human welfare within local communities, but world-wide.
  • Publication
    Are Humans Good for Goats? Assessing the Welfare of Goats Engaged in Human Interaction in a Care Farm Setting
    (2023-01-01) Butler, Rebecca
    Despite the lack of representation in the research, therapeutic care farming may provide an optimal approach to human animal interaction, endorsing positive animal welfare and, as Fine & Mackintosh (cited Fine et al., 2019) urge, promoting and protecting the welfare of animals at a comparable level to human outcomes. Unlike virtually all other modalities of human-animal interaction (HAI) or animalassisted intervention (AAI), care farming allows animals an element of control over their environment and the opportunity to express their preferences. The animals can initiate or terminate human interaction by choosing to approach or retreat, the animals choose when to take a breaks, and they are free to explore their environment. Autonomy and the ability to express preferences is a key indicator of positive animal welfare in general (Stilwell, 2016; Mattiello et al, 2019) but especially relevant for promoting animal welfare in human animal interactions. This randomized control trial investigated the longitudinal behavioral changes of goats residing in a therapeutic care farm setting who engage in human interactions. My hypothesis is goats engaged in reoccurring, semi-structured human interaction will display an increase in positive welfare over time. This would demonstrate that care farming can both be good for human health and improve animal welfare.
  • Publication
    Toward a New Framework for Companion Animal Healthcare Services at the Community Level
    (2022-01-01) Deans-Schaub, Kathryn
    An estimated 2 million or more companion animals every year are surrendered to shelters in the United States by their “pet parents” for a variety of reasons. The literature on companion animal surrender indicates that such relinquishments occur for owner-related and/or animal-related reasons. Research suggests that human housing issues are closely related to pet relinquishment, that animal behavioral issues are a frequent reason for surrender, and that pet healthcare needs and expenses are often associated with animal surrender. Many of the reasons for surrendering a pet, and especially those related to human housing, animal behavior, and pet healthcare expenses, are potentially connected with financial constraints. If assistance and support were available to “pet parents”, through the public and/or the private sector, it is likely that the incidence of pet surrender could be reduced. Existing programs at both the animal shelter level and the broader community level do offer assistance and, especially with respect to pet healthcare needs, certain veterinary services are brought into some underserved communities. This paper explores barriers to receiving companion animal healthcare services and options to structuring in-community veterinary care services, proposing that animal health services be actually embedded within the community instead of brought into the community. The proposed community-embedded animal health model is based upon a “pyramid” structure for animal health services, moving upward from neighborhood pet healthcare “hubs” through local clinics and community hospitals. Similarly, a “pyramid” structure for staffing, designed to address care accessibility barriers including communication challenges and diversity within the allied veterinary professions, would be built upon a foundational level of a cadre of local community animal health workers. Also contemplated is enhanced utilization of veterinary technicians/nurses, as well as creation of a new midlevel veterinary professional role, under the direction and supervision of a licensed veterinarian. I predict that the incidence of pet surrender due to financial-related challenges would decrease as a result of community-embedded multi-level support for pet healthcare.
  • Publication
    An Opportunity to Decrease Data Variability and to Improve Study Reproducibility: Animal Welfare and Allostatic State in Biomedical Research
    (2022-01-01) Dybdal, Noël
    Concern over reliability of experimental study results is growing. Quality of data from animal model studies investigating mechanisms of diseases and response to disease intervention are of particular concern. Poor quality of published animal data has been cited as a significant contributor to clinical trial failure. Given that animal studies are foundational in guiding understanding of basic biological systems and informing investment decisions in development of new medicines, the societal costs of setting a low bar for reproducibility in animal studies is high. Current discussions on ways to improve research reproducibility focus principally on physical study design parameters, including power calculations in determination of appropriate group size, randomization procedures, and reporting bias. While attention to these elements is clearly important, a holistic approach which includes enhanced attention to animal welfare offers the greatest opportunity for improvement. The cumulative effects of stressful conditions experienced by animals throughout their entire lifecycle (rearing, transport, experimental conditions) on their physiological and psychological resilience are underappreciated study variables. The impact of chronic stress on resilience is referred to specifically as the allostatic state while the cost of adaptation to chronic stress is referred to as allostatic load. Animal welfare science provides the foundation for understanding how to reduce allostatic load and enhance positive welfare. In this presentation, I will advance a proposal that investment in conditions that reduce the allostatic load and support a positive welfare state of laboratory animals will result in more robust study outcomes.
  • Publication
    The Effect of Jungle Light Spectrum on the Fearfulness of Commercial Broiler Chickens
    (2022-01-01) Christensen, Karen
    There is more interest in how food animals are raised. One of the topics of most interest is how commercial broiler houses are lit. There is discussion about high intensity light (50 lux), natural light from windows compared to conventional dim lighting programs (2 – 5 lux) using “white” LED light. Chickens are prey animals that depend on their vision safety. Chickens “see” the word differently than humans and other animals in several significant ways. They have four cones for color vision compared to three for humans. This results in a broader light spectrum range especially in the lower wavelengths. They have very large eyes that when weighted together, weigh more than their brain. They have both binocular and monocular vision and can process two distinct images at the same time. This allows them to see what they are eating and watch for prey at the same time. When designing a lighting program for chickens, these factors must be kept in perspective, so a light environment provides a feeling of safety and provides a spectrum that utilizes their full range. Recreating the lighting that chickens would experience in the wild may provide an environment where they are less fearful. The purpose of this trial was to compare production parameters and determine fearfulness of commercial broilers raised under white LED light of ~3500K and a light spectrum that simulates light in the jungle canopy. Four commercial broiler houses were utilized for the trial each with 19,200 birds. The source flocks were equally distributed within and between the houses. Birds were tested for fearfulness using several behavioral tests at 34 to 36 days of age. Birds were marketed at 54 days of age where performance and Key Welfare Indicators were assessed. Live production parameters nor H:L ratio were influenced by the light spectrum but the results of the inversion test, isolation test and tonic immobility indicated birds raised under a jungle light spectrum were less fearful than birds raised under LED light.
  • Publication
    The Welfare Implications of Proposition 12 as it Relates to Breeding Sows and Gilts
    (2023) Diana Lynch
    Proposition 12 is a ballot proposition in the state of California that regulates housing for breeding sows and gilts by banning the use of gestation stalls. Sow housing, more specifically, individual confinement in stalls during gestation, is a controversial topic in animal agriculture. As society becomes increasingly solicitous of the treatment of food animals, there has been and will likely be an increasing amount of proposed legislation to ensure humane treatment. While it is crucial to ensure the humane treatment of food animals, legislation must first be founded in science to be effective. In the case of Proposition 12, the potential to positively promote the welfare of breeding female pigs has been scarcely studied. Proposition 12 did not go into effect until 2022, and multiple legal challenges have stalled both implementation and industry-wide responses to adopt compliant housing. While no scientific studies have been conducted thus far using Proposition 12 in name, several previously published studies have utilized treatment groups that are Proposition 12 compliant in nature. Critical review of the sow behavior, health and production results described in these experiments suggest that, as it is written, Proposition 12 likely will not achieve its intended purpose of promoting sow welfare because it focuses on one singular aspect of swine management (floor space allowance) and fails to consider all other components. It is the position of this paper that pigs can be humanely and responsibly raised in any housing system if all aspects of swine rearing are considered holistically. Consequently, the potential for legislation that mandates one style of swine rearing over another to improve animal welfare is questioned. With that said, however, it is currently unclear how to analyze the sow’s affective state when housed individually or in groups during the post-weaning and early gestation stage. Accordingly, the true welfare implications of Proposition 12 will remain undetermined until research is conducted about how housing systems in pig rearing affect all three realms of animal welfare.
  • Publication
    Application of Scent Enrichment for Captive African Leopards, P. pardus pardus: Exploratory Behaviors and Locomotion as Indicators of Positive Welfare
    (2023) Sierra M. Donaldson
    As humans progress in the understanding of animals and their cognitive complexities, concerns for the welfare of captive animals and the need for improving husbandry practices has taken precedence. Substantiated by a collection of scientific publications, environmental enrichment is one strategy commonly used in zoological settings and functions to decrease stress-related behaviors in animals via mental and physical stimulation. However, the majority of current research consists of the reduction of behaviors indicative of poor welfare (e.g. stereotypic pacing) as a method for measuring welfare, and as a result, fails in optimizing the lives of captive animals. Enrichment is also typically applied at a population level, which makes achieving a positive welfare state at an individual level less viable. Therefore, this paper offers an alternative approach to assessing welfare utilizing behaviors suggestive of positive welfare, in conjunction with a preference-based model, for improving captive animal life. This study involved providing enrichment for eight African leopards at a sanctuary in South Africa. Intervention in the form of scent application was presented to the sample population using dilutions of Roman chamomile, nutmeg, silvervine and fox urine. Increases in exploratory and locomotive behaviors were used as measurements for assessing welfare over the duration of five weeks. All behavioral observations were recorded for 10 minutes per leopard, per day of scent provision. Two trials were conducted. During weeks 1-4, one of the four scents was randomly assigned to each leopard each week. On week five, all four scents were provided simultaneously to assess for preference and the related effects on locomotion and exploratory behaviors. A focal sampling method was used to quantify and analyze all data. The results of this study showed a significant variance amongst the individual in both preference and behavioral patterns. However, the data collected from population totals demonstrated increases in locomotive and exploratory behaviors when a leopard had available their preferred scent(s). My findings suggest that scent provision at the level of the individual has potential to significantly enhance the welfare of captive animals under these conditions.
  • Publication
    Group Housing Can Improve the Welfare of Domestic Felines Housed in Shelters
    (2023) Amanda Fowler
    Although loose guidelines and standards exist, housing for cats in shelters is not strictly regulated or enforced in the United States, thus contributing to the poor welfare of many shelter cats. There are a variety of housing types for cats in shelters, each with their own welfare benefits and drawbacks. The goal of this paper was to examine current housing practices for cats in shelters and their consequent effects on welfare, with a specific focus on group housing compared to single cat housing. In order to determine the best housing practices, I examined three studies which directly compared group housing and single housing of shelter cats. I found that group housing has the potential to increase welfare, but only under specific conditions. For example, groups must be relatively small and stable, comprised of cats socialized to conspecifics, and have access to ample resources, space, and enrichment. Group housing is not the best fit for every cat, however, it provides the opportunity for social interactions and enrichment, which can be fulfilling for many cats. More research is needed to determine the best housing practices for improving the welfare of shelter cats, but these findings may bring us one step closer to developing much-needed standards and regulations.
  • Publication
    Behavioral Associations with Feline Gastrointestinal and Dermatological Disorders
    (2023) Eilidh J. Gilbert
    Despite a growing body of evidence that suggests a strong connection between physical and behavioral health in animals, the effects of inflammatory diseases on cat behavior remains understudied. I investigated whether behavior profiles of cats with inflammatory GI and skin diseases differ from those of healthy cats. I also explored whether corticosteroid treatment affected cat behavior. I hypothesized that cats with inflammatory diseases would display more behavioral signs of anxiety than healthy cats and that steroid treatment would correlate with increased anxious behaviors. I identified cats within Penn Vet’s patient database that had been diagnosed with inflammatory GI and skin disorders, as well as a control group of healthy cats. The owners completed a feline behavioral assessment survey (Fe-BARQ), and I analyzed the resulting data using the Mann Whitney U test. The results revealed significant behavioral differences between groups. Anxious behaviors were more prevalent in the inflammatory group than the healthy group. The inflammatory group scored higher for purring and trainability than the healthy group. Additionally, cats treated with corticosteroids exhibited more anxious behaviors than healthy and non-steroid treatment groups. This study establishes that cats with inflammatory disorders display more anxious and comfort-soliciting behaviors than healthy cats and that corticosteroid treatment is associated in a higher incidence of anxiety in cats.
  • Publication
    The Impact of Altered Diet Presentation on Time Budget of Research Housed Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta)
    (2023) Kelsey Renae Neeb Lambert
    Rhesus macaques in the wild are known to adapt to a changing environment spanning different types of geography in order to find and process a wide variety of dietary resources. Captive rhesus are not faced with the same challenges when it comes to accessing dietary resources to meet their daily caloric need. Standard diet presentation for research-housed rhesus macaques involves placement of the nutritionally complete diet in an open feeder hung on the front portion of the enclosure. The goal of this project was to place a modified diet feeder on the top of the enclosure of thirteen rack-housed rhesus to increase the effort and time required to obtain the daily ration. The data demonstrated a statistically significant increase in upright posture (p<0.05) and appetitive behaviors (p<0.001) indicating an increase in time and effort to obtain daily ration. However, no significant impact on performance of maladaptive behavior was observed. Future evaluation with larger cohorts of primates is warranted in order to determine the impact of covariates (such as age, sex, social housing, and study type), and incorporate additional measures of welfare to better predict impact on individual primate welfare.