Behavioural And Physiological Responses Of Shelter Dogs To Long-Term Confinement

Scientific Journal Articles

In Italy, National Law (281/1991) prohibits euthanasia of shelter dogs if they are not dangerous or suffering seriously. Adoption rates in rescue shelters are often lower than entrance rates, leading inevitably to overcrowded facilities where animals are likely to spend the rest of their lives in kennels. In this situation, housing conditions (i.e. space provided, environmental, and social stimulation) may have an impact on canine welfare. In this research project, the effects of two different forms of housing (group- and pair housing) on long-term shelter dogs were compared using behavioural and physiological parameters. Observational data and saliva samples were collected from dogs exposed to both experimental settings; behaviour and cortisol concentration levels were used as welfare indicators. Pair housing offered fewer social and environmental stimuli and behavioural analysis showed a significant decrease in locomotor, exploratory, and social behaviour. Cortisol levels show that this parameter varied independently of housing conditions. Although this study found no evidence suggesting that one form of confinement reduced animal welfare more than the other (e.g. in terms of abnormal behaviour, or higher cortisol concentrations), the type of confinement did affect the expression of a variety of behaviours and these variations should not be ignored with respect to housing decisions for long-term shelter dogs.

Villa, P.D., Barnard, S., Di Fede, E., Podaliri, M., Candeloro, L., Di Nardo, A., Siracusa, C., and Serpell, J.A. (2013). Behavioural and physiological responses of shelter dogs to long-term confinement. Vet Ital., 49(2), 231-41.


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Topic(s): Behavior, Dog to Dog, Shelter and Rescue, Social Interactions