The second issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research in 2019 is the first properly thematic issue of the journal and concerns companion animals, in particular those who happen to be living outside the context of a (hopefully loving) human family. The most iconic situation in this regard is that of strays or pets in rescue shelters, but other situations qualify, such as pedigree dogs and cats in commercial breeding facilities and pets who become separated from their families in non-epidemic emergencies (e.g., earthquakes).
It is important to note that the pets counted as strays usually include different types (e.g., Bradshaw et al., 2014; Swarbrick & Rand, 2018, for cats). The most obvious type is that of pets who had a human family and lost it, due to owner surrender or other causes. Another is that of owned pets who are free to roam, but there are also animals who belong to a domestic companion animal species, who have never been part of a human family, as in the case of feral cats and dogs.
Each of these different types of animals pose different challenges depending on their number and the geographical, cultural, social, and economical contexts in which they happen to live. Therefore, the possible strategies to manage unwanted animals and the related ethical concerns can vary as well.
The first ethical question posed by unwanted pets is whether these animals should be allowed to exist, and what then are the consequences of their existence. On the one hand, where the existence of (at least some categories of) “pets without human families” is deemed unacceptable, the elective strategy tends to be eradication of the individuals found straying via culling—either directly on site or by trapping them and then destroying them in different ways depending on the context. However, this practice has its monetary, psychological, and ethical costs, and its efficacy is disputed (Swarbrick & Rand, 2018). On the other hand, if the existence of (at least some categories of) unwanted pets is deemed acceptable, what is the best way to manage these animals? A possible strategy is impoundment in shelters, in which the animals can either be destroyed after a certain amount of time if not claimed, even if they are healthy or not dangerous (i.e., in “kill” shelters), or be kept there until adoption or death (i.e., in “no-kill” shelters). As is the case of any other strategy, impoundment can have negative implications. The costs of culling healthy animals in “kill” shelters are similar to those already cited for eradication, but there are other, more specific costs: the monetary costs of providing for the animals (e.g., food, medical care) and the risk of unacceptable welfare levels for them, in case of poor shelter management and/or overcrowding (Menchetti et al., 2015). Another possible risk of “no-kill” shelters is that owners could feel less guilty in surrendering their pets if they know that they are not destroyed and thus have fewer scruples in doing so. Yet another strategy is that of trapping the animals, neutering them, and then releasing them in the same place they were trapped or in another, more suitable, location (Trap-Neuter-Release, TNR) (Swarbrick & Rand, 2018). TNR programs imply costs and organization, and their efficacy has not always been as expected (Castillo et al., 2003). Of course, combinations of these strategies can be used.
In any of the abovementioned scenarios, one very important ethical question is which level of welfare should we grant these animals? For this question it is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all answer, but it will depend on context. Obviously, cruelty is downright unacceptable in any context, but it is unrealistic to think that all of the animals in the abovementioned categories could be granted exactly the same welfare as a family pet.
It is difficult to have a clear idea of the scope of the problem worldwide. A survey addressed to the state veterinary services of all 172 OIE countries received answers from 81 (47%). The partial data obtained clearly show that not all countries adopt dog control programs, that more than half of the countries resort to a killing policy, regardless of their level of development, and that humane killing is considered less important in “low human development” countries (Dalla Villa et al., 2010). In the United States, a country for which data have been published, it is estimated that 3.3 million dogs and 2–3 million cats enter animal shelters each year, most of which are unwanted animals (ASPCA, year not specified; Levy et al., 2014). Many of them are ultimately euthanized in the shelters because they are neither reclaimed nor adopted (ASPCA, year not specified; Levy et al., 2014).
We do not have the ambition to be able to cover all of the ethical issues related to “pets without a human family”, even if the topic, due to its complexity, will span both issue 1.2 and issue 2.1 (which will be published in 2020). However, the aim of the two issues is to provide insight regarding the overall “pets without a human family” problem, by focusing on the ethical concerns posed by context-specific pet population control strategies and situations concerning pets without human families, thus adding to the existing body of literature on such a complex and controversial topic.
Some of the abovementioned issues, such as how should unwanted pets be managed (by sheltering, by killing, by trapping/neutering/releasing, etc.) or the consequences of adopting a kill (versus a no-kill) strategy for reasonably healthy, non-dangerous animals in shelters have a broader scope and have received more coverage in the academic literature (e.g., Rowan, 1992; Arkow, 1994; Fournier & Geller, 2004; Frank, 2004; Frank & Carlisle-Frank, 2007; Robertson, 2008; Budke & Slater, 2009; Coate & Knight, 2010; Loyd & DeVore, 2010; White et al., 2010; Levy et al., 2014; Spehar & Wolf, 2017; Tan et al., 2017 for the former and DiGiacomo et al., 1998; Frommer & Arluke, 1999; Baran et al., 2009; Rogelberg et al., 2007 for the latter). In this issue, Fawcett (2019) discusses the role of shelters in animal population management in the framework of the “One Welfare” concept, and explains why addressing the problem of unwanted animals by sheltering them is justified on utilitarian grounds. Salgirli Demirbas et al. (2019) illustrate Turkey’s control strategy for its free-ranging dog population, based on a Catch, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return method, discussing its effectiveness and other factors affecting free-ranging dog control. Natoli et al. (2019) explore the ethical aspects of the already-existing options to control free-roaming dog populations, with a particular focus on the Italian strategy (i.e., a nationwide no-kill sheltering policy for healthy, non-dangerous dogs).
Other dogs/cats who do not live in the context of a human family are dams and sires living in commercial breeding facilities. The high public concern regarding the welfare of such dogs notwithstanding, up to now, few studies have investigated the problems linked to this breeding system. McMillan et al. (2013) and Pirrone et al. (2016) focused on the behavioral differences between puppies originating from commercial breeding facilities and puppies originating elsewhere, and found more behavioral problems in the former. Thus, why are puppies originating from commercial breeding facilities still in high demand in the pet market? Croney (2019) explores the ethical issues and the welfare challenges associated with commercial dog breeding and the ways to address them and warns of the potentially even worse animal welfare consequences of abolishing the practice without identifying an ethically preferable alternative for meeting demands.
The consequences of earthquakes and other natural disasters on animals and their welfare is a budding topic in scientific literature (e.g., Glassey & Wilson, 2011; Barrenechea et al., 2012). In this context, Dalla Villa et al. (2019)’s paper explores the welfare issues concerning pets left without homes in non-epidemic emergencies, describing the emergency management of veterinary care activities carried out in response to the earthquakes that occurred in central Italy in 2016–2017.
ASPCA – American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Pet Statistics [Accessed 15 June 2019]. Available online: http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics.
- Export Citation
. ASPCA– American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Pet Statistics[ Accessed 15 June 2019]. Available online: http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics.
BaranB.E.AllenJ.A.RogelbergS.G.SpitzmullerC.DiGiacomoN.A.WebbJ.B.CarterN.T.ClarkO.L.TeeterL.A. & WalkerA.G. (2009). “Euthanasia-related strain and coping strategies in animal shelter employees”. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association235:183–88.
BarrenecheaM.BarronJ. & WhiteJ. (2012). “No place like home: pet-to-family reunification after disaster”. CHI1237–1242. Available online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231498986_No_Place_Like_Home_pet-to-family_reunification_after_disaster.
- Search Google Scholar
- Export Citation
( , Barrenechea, M. , & Barron, J. White, J. ). “ 2012 No place like home: pet-to-family reunification after disaster”. , 1237– 1242. Available online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231498986_No_Place_Like_Home_pet-to-family_reunification_after_disaster.
BradshawJ.W.S.HorsfieldG.F.AllenJ.A. & RobinsonI.H. (1999). “Feral cats: their role in the population dynamics of Felis catus”. Applied Animal Behaviour Science65273–283.
BudkeC.M. & SlaterM.R. (2009). “Utilization of matrix population models to assess a 3-year single treatment nonsurgical contraception program versus surgical sterilization in feral cat populations”. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science12:4277–292.
CastilloD. & ClarkeA.L. (2003). “Trap/neuter/release methods ineffective in controlling domestic cat ‘colonies’ on public lands”. Natural Areas Journal23247–253.
CroneyC.C. (2019). “Turning up the volume on man’s best friend: ethical issues associated with commercial dog breeding”. Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research1:2230‒252. doi:10.1163/25889567-12340011.
Dalla VillaP.KahnS.StuardoL.IannettiL.Di NardoA. & SerpellJ.A. (2010). “Free-roaming dog control among OIE-member countries”. Preventive Veterinary Medicine97:158–63. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2010.07.001.
Dalla VillaP.MigliaccioP.InnocentiI.NardoiaM. & LafiandraD.C. (2019). “Companion animals welfare in non-epidemic emergencies: the case of central Italy, post-earthquake 2016/2017”. Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research1:2253‒279. doi:10.1163/25889567-12340012.
DiGiacomoN.ArlukeA. & PatronekG. (1998). “Surrendering pets to shelters: The relinquisher’s perspective”. Anthrozoos11:141–51.
FawcettA. (2019). “Is a One Welfare approach the key to addressing unintended harms and maximising benefits associated with animal shelters?” Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research1:2117‒208. doi:10.1163/25889567-12340010.
FournierA.K. & GellerE.S. (2004). “Behavior analysis of companion-animal overpopulation: a conceptualisation of the problem and suggestions for intervention”. Behaviour and Social Issues1351–68.
FrankJ. (2004). “An interactive model of human and companion animal dynamics: the ecology and economics of dog overpopulation and the human costs of addressing the problem”. Human Ecology32:1107–130.
FrankJ.M. & Carlisle-FrankP.L. (2007). “Analysis of programs to reduce overpopulation of companion animals: do adoption and low-cost spay/neuter programs merely cause substitution of sources?” Ecological Economics62:3–4740–746.
FrommerS.S. & ArlukeA. (1999). “Loving them to death: blame-displacing strategies of animal shelter workers and surrenderers”. Society & Animals7:11–16.
GlasseyS. & WilsonT. (2011). “Animal welfare impact following the 4 September 2010 Canterbury (Darfield) earthquake”. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies249–59.
LevyJ.K.IsazaN.M. & ScottK.C. (2014). “Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter”. The Veterinary Journal201269–274.
LoydK.A.T. & DeVoreJ.L. (2010). “An evaluation of feral cat management options using a decision analysis network”. Ecology and Society15:4 Article: 10.
McMillanF.D.SerpellJ.A.DuffyD.L.MasaoudE. & DohooI.R. (2013). “Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders”. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association242:101359–1363.
MenchettiL.ManciniS.CatalaniM.C.BocciniB. & DiverioS. (2015). “RandAgiamoTM, a pilot project increasing adoptability of shelter dogs in the Umbria region (Italy)”. Animals5774–792. doi:10.3390/ani5030383.
NatoliE.CarriolaG.Dell’OglioG. & ValsecchiP. (2019). “Considerations of ethical aspects of control strategies of unowned free-roaming dog populations and the No-Kill policy in Italy”. Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research1:2216‒229. doi:10.1163/25889567-12340014.
PirroneF.PierantoniL.Quintavalle PastorinoG. & AlbertiniM. (2016). “Owner-reported aggressive behavior towards familiar people may be a more prominent occurrence in pet shop-traded dogs”. Journal of Veterinary Behavior1113–17.
RogelbergS.G.DiGiacomoN.ReeveC.L.SpitzmullerC.ClarkO.L.TeeterL.WalkerA.G.CarterN.T. & StarlingP.G. (2007). “What shelters can do about euthanasia-related stress: an examination of recommendations from those on the front line”. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science10:4331–347.
- Search Google Scholar
- Export Citation
( , Rogelberg, S.G. , DiGiacomo, N. , Reeve, C.L. , Spitzmuller, C. , Clark, O.L. , Teeter, L. , Walker, A.G. , & Carter, N.T. Starling, P.G. ). “ 2007 What shelters can do about euthanasia-related stress: an examination of recommendations from those on the front line”. , 10: 4, 331– 347.
RohlfV. & BennetP. (2005). “Perpetration-induced traumatic stress in persons who euthanize nonhuman animals in surgeries, animal shelters, and laboratories”. Society & Animals13:3201–219.
Salgirli DemirbasY.SaralB.Etkin SafakC. & Graça Da PereiraG. (2019). “Population control of free-ranging dogs in Turkey: never kill strategy”. Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research1:2209‒215. doi:10.1163/25889567-12340016.
SpeharD.D. & WolfP.J. (2017). “An examination of an iconic Trap-Neuter-Return program: the Newburyport, Massachusetts case study”. Animals781. doi:10.3390/ani7110081.
SwarbrickH. & RandJ. (2018). “Application of a protocol based on Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to manage unowned urban cats on an Australian University Campus”. Animals877. doi:10.3390/ani8050077.
TanK.RandJ. & MortonJ. (2017). “Trap-Neuter-Return activities in urban stray cat colonies in Australia”. Animals746. doi:10.3390/ani7060046.
WhiteS.C.JeffersonE. & LevyJ.K. (2010). “Impact of publicly sponsored neutering programs on animal population dynamics at animal shelters: the New Hampshire and Austin experiences”. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science13:3191–212.
WinogradN.J. (2010). “Shelters, No-Kill”. In: M. Bekoff (ed.) Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press512–519.