Preliminary Report of Assessment of Stress and Relaxation Related Behaviors of Kennel-Housed Dogs (Canis familiaris) in a No-Kill Rescue Shelter
J. Berger, F. Ho
The study of animal welfare has been largely targeted to farm, laboratory, and zoo animals. Only in the last decade research was conducted on companion animals in shelter settings. The five freedoms model, widely accepted to define welfare standards, is violated by exposing animals to stressors associated with confinement. Not only do such stressors decrease welfare they create undesirable in-kennel behaviors which are directly related to length of stay in the shelter.
This study aimed to assess stress and relaxation related behaviors in shelter dogs.
The San Francisco Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA), California, USA was the study site. Twenty-two dogs (n=22) were observed in their housing at two different locations. The subjects were representative of dogs admitted to SF SPCA based on breed (mix), age, and size. Each dog was observed for 1 minute every 10 minutes for 6 hours by a trained observer.
Dogs were stressed on average of 56.82% overall. Based on location the dogs exhibited stress signals in 70.00% of the observations in location one and 28.57% in location two. Stress behaviors exhibited varied greatly by age; showing dogs with an average age of 4 years exhibited the most stress related behaviors.
Overall, the results suggest that kennel-housed dogs in this no-kill rescue shelter exhibited stress more than half the time during the observations. Based on age and location stress signals varied significantly. Dogs, 4 years of age, were the most stressed subset of dogs in this rescue shelter setting.