Companion Animal Welfare and Behavior

The Companion Animal group at the Center for Animals and Public Policy conducts research that examines three key areas: access to veterinary care, applied animal behavior, and animal sheltering, all with the goal of supporting pet welfare and pet ownership. We also work with students and partners in the community to implement programs and develop resources based on our research.

Pet ownership is increasing around the world, enabling more people to enjoy the many benefits of the human-animal bond. Pets too benefit from human care and stewardship, leading longer, healthier, and enriched lives. The welfare of companion animals is dependent on the people caring for them, from pets like dogs and cats in homes, to animals in shelters, to those who are free roaming. Pet ownership and community animal management are the foundation of companion animal welfare, but the ability to keep and care for a pet depends on access to veterinary care and community services. Unfortunately, the unequal distribution of knowledge and necessary resources in modern society contributes to barriers to pet ownership.

Ensuring all pets have access to veterinary care is increasingly recognized as an ethical obligation of the veterinary profession. Spectrum of Care is an emerging paradigm that involves considering a range of treatment options and engaging the pet owner as a partner to decide what treatment options would work best for their family. Facilitating access to care and practicing from this perspective supports pet ownership and pet welfare. Teaching veterinary students access to care and spectrum of care principles as well as expanding the evidence base for this work are critical focus points for the Companion Animal Welfare and Behavior team.

Challenges with the pet’s behavior, owner misunderstanding and misperception of that behavior, and lack of affordable behavioral support services can also lead to deteriorating relationships with pets. Our research provides critical information organizations use to develop effective policies and programs to share behavioral information and deliver services to help owners understand and work with their pet’s behavior.

Finally, beyond our walls, animal welfare organizations help support pet ownership by providing sheltering and rehoming services when needed, offering resources and expertise such as behavioral information and services and pet food pantries, and complementing available veterinary services. Our work with animal welfare organizations contributes to strategic policies and informed practices that help shelters and rescue groups more effectively support pet ownership and welfare in a diverse array of community settings.