Modern zoos and aquaria acknowledge the need to formally incorporate animal welfare (AW) strategies and awareness as part of their infrastructure and culture. Zoo accrediting bodies have developed frameworks to assist zoos in defining AW programs adapted to their own structures.1-3 Some facilities have designed AW centers as part of their general research programs.4 An AW strategy should be simultaneously responsive and proactive, rather than reactive only. The challenge lies in tackling the broad scope of a comprehensive AW scheme.
As part of the SeaWorld Parks Animal Welfare program, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (BGT) created a relevant and engaging AW committee (AWC) to answer these challenges. Groundwork included developing the mission, goals and guiding principles for the AWC. Members which represent different areas of the zoo and include leaders in behavior, education, animal health as well as public relations and research experts. The branches of the AWC at BGT include the following subcommittees (SC): response, proactive, awareness and administrative. The response SC addresses AW concerns submitted by zoo employees. The proactive SC provides continuing AW education, while the awareness SC disseminates AWC information. The administrative branch handles the daily logistics of the committee.
The BGT AWC model presents one possible integrative approach to AW that has produced tangible results for the animals and employees. The critical steps in the formation of the AWC at BGT can be used as a template for other institutions, both large and small. Future directions include animal welfare assessments and messaging AWC goals to our guests.
1. Animal welfare committee. Association of Zoos and Aquariums. https://www.aza.org/animal_welfare_committee. March 15, 2018.
2. Animal welfare resources. European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. https://www.eaza.net/about-us/areas-of-activity/animal-welfare/. March 15, 2018.
3. Caring for wildlife: The World Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare Strategy. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. https://www.waza.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/WAZA-Animal-Welfare-Strategy-2015_Portrait.pdf. March 15, 2018. (VIN editor: The original link was modified as of 4-29-19.)
4. Kagan R, Carter S, Allard S. A universal animal welfare framework for zoos. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2015;18:1–10.