The Impact of COVID-19 on Dog Welfare

Project lead: Dr Rob Christley and Dr Jane Murray

Key people: Dr Naomi Harvey, Katharine Anderson, Dr Emma Buckland, Dr Rachel Casey, Kassandra Giragosian, Dr Lauren Harris, Dr Katrina Holland, Dr Kirsten McMillan, Dr Rebecca Mead, Dr Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka, Dr Melissa Upjohn

  

Programme background and summary

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the globe have put in place restrictions which have drastically changed the way that most people live their daily lives. These restrictions mean that most people have been at home more and have fewer opportunities to go outdoors and to socialise. In other cases (for example, essential workers) people may be home less than usual. The aim of this programme (within which we have multiple projects evaluating different sources of data, with differing research questions) is to explore the impact that these changes have on dog welfare and dog-human relationships.

Using multiple methods, including GenPup diaries, Twitter analytics and a bespoke survey, we seek to find out which aspects of dog ownership (i.e. management and observed behaviour of dogs) have changed as a result of the pandemic, and we can then study the impact that reported lifestyle changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic had on dog ownership and dog behaviour. The findings from this research will help us tailor our advice and resources for dog owners who may need help dealing with the challenges and consequences of COVID-19 lifestyle changes. Factors found to impact on dog welfare and dog-human relationships can be used to inform recommendations outside the context of COVID-19, as many will represent extreme management patterns that are rarely reported by owners.

 

The problem, and its context within Dogs Trust.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented social change, not least through the requirement for households to self-isolate. This has resulted in numerous changes for dog owners, including household members being at home for extended periods (or potentially at home less, in the case of health or other essential workers, or caring for relatives elsewhere, for example), cessation of contact within social networks, restrictions on outdoor activities and on access to resources, including vets, dog day care and so on. The impacts of such major change on dog welfare and on dog-human relationships, both now and potentially as these restrictions are modified and lifted, are unknown.

As we have limited evidence regarding the impact of these social changes it is difficult for Dogs Trust, and other welfare organisations, to best target their resources to minimise the impact of COIVD-19 on dog welfare and on dog-human relationships. This project will seek to provide an evidence-base upon which we can better understand the impacts of COVID-19-related social change on dog welfare and dog-human relationships. Factors found to impact on dog welfare and dog-human relationships can be used to inform recommendations outside the context of COVID-19, as many will represent extreme management patterns that are rarely reported by owners.

This project will utilise a range of methods to gather data from the UK dog owning public.

 

Publications:

2021


Paediatric emergency department dog bite attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic: an audit at a tertiary children’s hospital


“More Attention than Usual”: A Thematic Analysis of Dog Ownership Experiences in the UK during the First COVID-19 Lockdown


The below abstract has been accepted as a live stream presentation at ISAZ 2021.

A Novel Tool for Animal Welfare - Twitter Mining PDF 125 KB
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2020


Impact of the First COVID-19 Lockdown on Management of Pet Dogs in the UK



Covid Report 2020 PDF 1.99 MB
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