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Developing animal welfare codes of practice: Evaluation of strategies for the pet shop industry

Evans, Dianne (2000) Developing animal welfare codes of practice: Evaluation of strategies for the pet shop industry. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Animal welfare codes define acceptable welfare standards for an industry. The first of many animal welfare codes of practice in Australia was published in 1979. Code development has been primarily coordinated by government agencies but with limited industry input and promotion, the impact of these has been questioned.

With governments now less likely to impose regulations, an alternative approach to developing a welfare code in conjunction with a significant proportion of industry members was part of this study. It focused on pet shops but could be applied to other animal industries.

During 1997 and 1998, 75 staff at 30 pet shops in Perth were involved in the major part of the project which sought to evaluate three different approaches for encouraging industry members to increase their animal welfare standards. This required participants to complete two questionnaires before and after one of three treatments. After the first questionnaire was completed shops were randomly allocated to one of three test groups which used different approaches to influence attitude and behaviour towards animal welfare.

The first group read and commented on a draft code of practice (a minimalist approach). The second group did the same and were also provided with a ‘self-assessment sheet’ to evaluate their current performance on welfare matters. The third group completed the same tasks as the second and trialled a proposed accreditation scheme. Additional materials promoting animal care were also provided to, and evaluated by, all groups.

Data from the questionnaires were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences to compare changes in attitude and behaviour of the three groups.

All groups supported an animal welfare code of practice. However, a significant change in attitude occurred in the group that trialled the accreditation scheme where support for a code to be adopted by all shops declined from 90% to 77% and it showed the weakest support for inclusion of additional welfare standards in the code. Conversely, the group that read only the draft code increased support for a code, from 82% to 100%. There were no significant differences in welfare practices between the three groups.

Involving an industry in the development of a welfare code of practice may promote acceptance, perhaps by identifying practical aspects. However, encouraging use of a code did not lead to more positive attitudes or greater adoption of welfare practices. Within the limits of these data, it appeared that the more the exposure to the realities of welfare practice, the less staff favoured them. A possible reason for this was reluctance to spend time or money on practices that may not bring financial returns.

It is recommended that development of animal welfare codes include broad industry consultation. However, if codes are not enforced, adoption may require a system that rewards compliance to justify the additional commitment made by pet shop staff.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Johnson, Ken
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