Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) have experienced explosive growth in recent years, in the absence of systematic evaluation of the potential risks to animals imposed on by these practices. The aim of this study was to develop a method for monitoring the welfare of dogs involved in AAA. Five trained dogs participated in a 7-week-longAAAprogram. The dogswere housed at a training school andwere engaged in a weekly visit session with 2 or 3 elderly people in a retirement home. Welfare assessment was based on endocrine (fecal cortisol [FC], salivary cortisol [SC]), clinical (physical exam and hemato-chemical panel), and behavioral parameters. Baselines of FC, clinical parameters, and behavioral repertoire were obtained for 3 weeks before the AAA program began (phase 1). To assess long-term effects of the AAA, the same evaluations were done during the 4 weeks after the end of the program (phase 3). During the program (phase 2) feces, saliva, and behavioral sampling were carried out before and after each session to assess short-term effects of AAA. For statistical analysis, behaviors were grouped into main categories (Exploration, Interaction, Stress, Recumbency, Other activities) and variations of these parameters between the phases were analyzed by Wilcoxon test. Clinical parameters, FC and SC varied within physiologic ranges during the study. Nevertheless, FC levels were higher (P , 0.05) in phase 1 than in phases 2 and 3 whereas SC levels were not affected by participation at AAA sessions. As for behaviors, comparisons between phase 1 and 3 showed an increase (P,0.05) in all categories except for Recumbency, which decreased significantly. Moreover, Stress and Interaction categories increased (P , 0.05) after each AAA session during phase 2. After the session, some specific behaviors were expressed more (intra-specific interaction, play, locomotion), whereas others (interaction with humans and environmental exploration) were expressed less (P , 0.05). Without an increase in cortisol level it is unlikely to associate the variation in behavioral expression with a stress condition. Long-term modification of FC and behavioral categories account for adaptation of the dogs to the school housing after temporary fostering by a family. Moreover, SC and behavioral data in phase 2 do not give a strong evidence for a stress condition; they rather suggest a change in needs due to the AAA session. This multiple approach allowed to point out some specific demands placed on dogs involved in AAA, in the absence of evident stress symptoms.

Welfare assessment of dogs involved in animal assisted activities.

MARINELLI, LIETA;MONGILLO, PAOLO;NORMANDO, SIMONA ROSARIA CARLA;BONO, GABRIELE
2009

Abstract

Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) have experienced explosive growth in recent years, in the absence of systematic evaluation of the potential risks to animals imposed on by these practices. The aim of this study was to develop a method for monitoring the welfare of dogs involved in AAA. Five trained dogs participated in a 7-week-longAAAprogram. The dogswere housed at a training school andwere engaged in a weekly visit session with 2 or 3 elderly people in a retirement home. Welfare assessment was based on endocrine (fecal cortisol [FC], salivary cortisol [SC]), clinical (physical exam and hemato-chemical panel), and behavioral parameters. Baselines of FC, clinical parameters, and behavioral repertoire were obtained for 3 weeks before the AAA program began (phase 1). To assess long-term effects of the AAA, the same evaluations were done during the 4 weeks after the end of the program (phase 3). During the program (phase 2) feces, saliva, and behavioral sampling were carried out before and after each session to assess short-term effects of AAA. For statistical analysis, behaviors were grouped into main categories (Exploration, Interaction, Stress, Recumbency, Other activities) and variations of these parameters between the phases were analyzed by Wilcoxon test. Clinical parameters, FC and SC varied within physiologic ranges during the study. Nevertheless, FC levels were higher (P , 0.05) in phase 1 than in phases 2 and 3 whereas SC levels were not affected by participation at AAA sessions. As for behaviors, comparisons between phase 1 and 3 showed an increase (P,0.05) in all categories except for Recumbency, which decreased significantly. Moreover, Stress and Interaction categories increased (P , 0.05) after each AAA session during phase 2. After the session, some specific behaviors were expressed more (intra-specific interaction, play, locomotion), whereas others (interaction with humans and environmental exploration) were expressed less (P , 0.05). Without an increase in cortisol level it is unlikely to associate the variation in behavioral expression with a stress condition. Long-term modification of FC and behavioral categories account for adaptation of the dogs to the school housing after temporary fostering by a family. Moreover, SC and behavioral data in phase 2 do not give a strong evidence for a stress condition; they rather suggest a change in needs due to the AAA session. This multiple approach allowed to point out some specific demands placed on dogs involved in AAA, in the absence of evident stress symptoms.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/2267786
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