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Investigation of 13-17 year olds’ attitudes and behaviour to animals and development and testing of interventions to promote the concept of Duty of Care. - AW1407

As part of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) and the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act (2006), the concept of a ‘duty of care’ to animals (DOC) has been extended to all vertebrates managed, used and cared for by humans. Children and young people are particularly important target audiences when considering extending a sense of DOC to animals in society as previous research has suggested that experiences early in life can have long-lasting effects on attitudes and behaviour towards animals, and also because young people’s interactions with animals are meaningful in the here and now. In this project we aim to better understand the perspectives of 13-17 year olds to animals and their welfare in order to then design an evidence-based intervention to improve attitudes and behaviour towards animals in adolescents.

We will build on our work in a current Defra-funded project (‘A study to assess how to promote a duty of care to animals in young people), where we have developed and tested a school based intervention aimed at enhancing a DOC to animals in 7-12 year olds, and in this current proposal we plan to continue this successful integration of animal welfare and social science research. For this proposal it is important to recognise the significant transitions that children make as they become adolescents and how these might influence design of interventions targeting a DOC in 13-17 year olds. We will therefore carry out new research to gain a detailed understanding of 13-17 year olds’ perceptions of and interactions with animals and also how animals fit into teenagers’ lives in a broad context including health, lifestyle, empathy and self-esteem. On the basis of this and other information that we will collect (e.g. teacher perspectives on animal welfare education), we will develop a school-based intervention to enhance a sense of DOC to animals in adolescents. We will implement and evaluate this intervention using established approaches to demonstrate the effectiveness of the intervention in changing attitudes, knowledge and behaviour.

We will ensure that our work applies to England, Wales and Scotland by: collecting and analysing relevant data to develop our evidence-base across GB; by applying and evaluating the intervention in all 3 countries; and generally by appreciating regional approaches to education policy and practice. We will also ensure that our work has applicability to all classes of animals covered by current legislation. We recognise the importance of a wide stakeholder involvement in this cross-cutting research and hence we will ensure an inclusive and participatory approach to stakeholder engagement across GB. Lastly, towards the end of the project we will engage with Defra and key stakeholders in an evaluation of where we stand with animal welfare education and where the possibilities lie in the future to further enhance a sense of DOC to animals in young people.
Phase 1 Developing an evidence base for underpinning an animal welfare intervention to enhance a DOC to animals in 13-17 year olds
1.1 To update and expand the literature review
1.2 To examine knowledge of, attitudes towards, and empathy to animals among 13 to 17 year olds
1.3 To explore the role of animals in teenagers lives taking a lifestyle perspective
1.4 To collate and assess animal welfare education materials aimed at 13 to 17 year-olds
1.5 To understand teachers’ perspectives on animal welfare education
1.6 Stakeholder engagement

Phase 2 Developing, implementing and evaluating an intervention to promote a DOC to animals in 13-17 year olds
2.1 Development of an assessment tool for evaluating the intervention
2.2 To develop an educational intervention to promote a DOC to animals in 13-17 year olds
2.3 To experimentally trial the intervention in England, Scotland and WalesObjective
2.4: Final consultation with Defra and other key stakeholders on future directions for animal welfare education in England, Scotland and Wales

Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2017

Cost: £478,645
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC, University of Edinburgh, University of Hertfordshire, University of St Andrews
Animal Welfare              
Companion Animals              
Social Sciences              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare