Improving Captive Animal Welfare Through the Application of Cognitive Enrichment
Millar, Louise Natalie
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish two papers from the thesis. In addition there is sensitive commercial material within the thesis.
Welfare for captive animals in laboratory, farm, companion and zoo settings is difficult to assess and subject to interpretation. The perceived needs of animals change over time and according to budget, fashion and policy. The assessment of the value of environmental enrichment for captive animals is hampered by the lack of consistent, quantitative, objective and methodical research. Enrichment devices and other welfare improvement strategies lack long-term assessment or implementation. The concept of cognitive enrichment, or enabling captive animals to use their cognitive abilities to solve problems and meet challenges in their environment, is in the initial stages of development. Preliminary findings indicate that cognitive enrichment seems to be an effective method of improving captive animal welfare. In the research described in this thesis, several welfare measurement techniques including changes in activity budget, stereotypic behaviour and cognitive bias were compared and used to measure the effects of cognitive enrichment upon captive pigeons and dogs in order to obtain a useable cognitive enrichment paradigm that can be extrapolated to many types of captive animals. Key findings were that cognitive enrichment improved captive group-housed pigeon welfare and individually-kennelled dog welfare, indicated by significant changes in activity budget, increases in ‘optimism’, and reduction of stereotypic behaviour in subjects. Subjects used both low-tech and high-tech cognitive enrichments as intended and showed no sign of habituation. It is hoped that these findings will be used to improve captive animal welfare, and that the cognitive enrichment and cognitive bias paradigms developed will add to this field of research.
PhD in Psychology