Choice, Control & Empowerment for Shelter Animals
Empowering animals by providing opportunities for choices within their daily lives is a popular topic and an important welfare strategy in zoos, aquariums, and, more recently, professional dog-training settings. But in animal shelters, a focus on choice and environmental control is only gaining momentum slowly. Yet, it is in this environment that behavioral-welfare strategies are most essential; shelter animals lose control over their environment and experience significant reduction in choice from the moment they enter the shelter until the time they leave. Empowerment strategies can and should be in practice throughout an animal’s length of stay. However, it simply isn’t enough to say that we provide the opportunities; we need to also acknowledge and respond when an animal makes a choice. Let’s explore how we can support behavioral welfare from shelter admission to exit through the provision of daily choices and attention to responses. How can we give some control back to the animals in our care? How can we do so in a manner that is both practical to the setting and beneficial for the individual?