The Assistance Animal Program in Korea and Animal Welfare Issues in the Program
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2011
Yoon Ju Choi, DVM, PhD
Samsung Guidedog School, Pogok-Eup, Yongin, Korea


Assistance animal programs have been extended from training for guide dogs for the blind to various other disabilities, including the deaf. Dogs are very trainable, so it is mostly dogs that are trained to be assistance animals. However, most people overlook the fact that even assistance animals are under stressful conditions and there have been no guidelines for animal welfare. Under the five freedoms for animals we have set up animal welfare guideline for assistance animals of all types. Animal welfare guidelines are necessary in order to have consistent guidelines for all assistance animal training programs in the world.


Since the early twentieth century people have systematically trained and used animals for the disabled. Nowadays animals assist people with the various disabilities: the deaf, those in wheel-chairs, diabetics, and sometimes people from psychological problems. In Korea a training program introduced in the early 1990s and it has spread many organizations, especially programs for therapy dogs. However most programs have focused on the training and the recipient that is just human side, so animal welfare has, in fact, been overlooked. In 1967, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee of the UK government set forth the guidelines that became the five freedoms of animals. These were the first guidelines to recommend that animals be given the freedom to 'stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves, and stretch their limbs'. The later elaborated 'five freedoms' are as follows: 1) freedom from thirst and hunger, 2) freedom from discomfort, 3) freedom from pain, injury, and disease, 4) freedom to express normal behavior, 5) freedom from fear and distress.

Assistance Animal Programs and Animal Welfare Guidelines in Korea

In Korea, the guide dog, hearing dog, and therapy dog programs have been successful. There are two guide dog schools and a federation of therapy animals has been organized in 2010. In the case of guide dog, there are seventy users are in active. Recently horseback riding for disabled programs have become popular and are expanding quickly. Even though assistance animals have good care conditions in Korea, there are no standard guidelines. So we have set up animal welfare guideline for all types based on five freedoms of animals.

Definition of Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is the physical and psychological wellbeing of an animal under conditions of human use. It means that all animal that will be killed for food or kept as pets should be treated humanely. Animal welfare must be differentiated animal rights, as animal rights groups advocate that all human ownership of animals should come to an end.

Review of Assistant Animal's Welfare According to the Five Freedoms

All animal assistance programs should be assessed according to these guidelines.

1. Freedom from Thirst and Hunger

Feeding, nutrition, and free access to fresh water were considered.

2. Freedom from Discomfort

Elements of the animals' environments should be considered: facility, temperature and humidity, transportation box, and vehicle. 'Facility' includes such concerns as kennel size, light, ventilation, floor material, temperature and humidity controller. In the case of guide dog kennels, the recommended proper space for each dog is 135cm x 210cn x 110cm.

3. Freedom From Pain, Injury, Disease

This concern includes veterinary services such as preventive medicine programs, and euthanasia.

4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior

Right training methods and environmental enrichment are essential for having normal behavior. This concern includes socialization program and right training methods such as positive reinforcement training.

5. Freedom From Fear and Distress

The psychological condition of animals is the most important aspect. This includes such concerns working hours, exposure to stressful environment, etc.

To improve animal welfare, we suggest applying an animal welfare index, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Animal Welfare Index for Assistance Dog (sample).










Temp. & humidity




Problematic behavior







*The scores of each item are weighted depending on importance.


People tend to think that working animals, especially assistance animals, have few animal welfare risks. However, many aspects of animal welfare must be considered with reference to assistance animals. Therefore, the animal welfare index will be very useful.


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Speaker Information
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George (Yoon Ju) Choi, DVM, PhD
Samsung Guidedog School
Pogok-Eup, Yongin, Korea

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