Bennett, K. J., Hill, V. A., Brock, K. et al. 2011. Enhanced canine enrichment and its effects on staff morale. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 772 (Abstract #P123).
The use of dogs in research has been under increasing public scrutiny and criticism over the past several years, and our institution has been no exception. Of particular concern is the use of Class B dogs. In order to investigate potential implications of public perceptions for our animal care staff, we surveyed our husbandry and veterinary technician staff regarding issues specific to the use of dogs in research and teaching. The survey focused on worker attitudes and morale with regard to canine research studies and recent public criticism of such studies at our institution. The survey also addressed issues of environmental enrichment. The survey response showed a trend between the importance of animal welfare and overall job satisfaction among the staff. The importance of an organized, institution-supported enrichment program for research dogs was also indicated. However, negative media attention did not appear to influence their feelings on the use of dogs in research. Following the survey, a volunteer Animal Enrichment Committee (AEC) was formed and consisted of husbandry staff, veterinary technicians, and veterinarians. The AEC then instituted an enhanced canine enrichment program to benefit both canine welfare and human morale. The program consisted of 2 main components: positive reinforcement training of basic commands to facilitate routine husbandry duties and experimental procedures; and play-based exercise sessions. Throughout all interactions, participants were encouraged to show general affection to the dogs. Staff participation was encouraged using a shared time policy in which staff time was provided equally through institutional expense and staff volunteers’ time contribution. Overall, the program has been a success, improving both animal welfare and staff morale. Future efforts will include identifying and implementing ways to maintain staff participation over time and further strengthening the program to improve animal welfare and staff morale alike.