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Position Statement on Dog Welfare

The BC SPCA is dedicated to promoting the health and welfare of dogs, and celebrating their close bond with people. The Society also values the varied services that dogs provide to humans and other animals, including but not limited to: companionship, work, recreation and research.

Guardians of both companion and working dogs are expected to provide their animals with the Five Freedoms for the duration of their lives. When training or handling dogs, the BC SPCA advocates the use of force-free, humane training techniques (see also Animal Training). The Society supports legislation that protects the health and welfare of dogs, and the use of the highest professional accreditation standards and programs that evaluate and improve the care and handling of dogs.

The use of working dogs is only acceptable if, in addition to the criteria described above:

  • the work does not cause the dog to experience levels of psychological distress that diminish welfare;
  • the work does not result in ongoing injuries;
  • dogs have an appropriate coat type, body size and temperament for the activity  and physical environment they are working in;
  • dogs receive sufficient rest from the work;
  • housing and transport do not compromise welfare;
  • the work does not inflict injury or suffering on another animal for the purpose of recreation, sport or entertainment; and
  • there are suitable plans in place considering the individual needs of the animal for surplus dogs, dogs that do not meet breeding standards and dogs retired from the work.

Approved by the Board of Directors – July 2017

(replaces Sled Dogs, February 2010)

Background

All dog guardians should have a plan and provide for the health and welfare of their dogs, with considerations made for: sanitary and comfortable bedding and housing; transportation; socialization; adequate nutrition; appropriate preventative medical care including vaccinations and parasite control; breeding or prevention of breeding; training, mental stimulation, daily physical exercise, enrichment, and opportunities for play to prevent boredom and frustration; regular opportunities to evacuate waste; appropriate grooming to the breed; fear-free handling; immediate veterinary care in medical emergencies; retirement and aging considerations; and euthanasia. In addition, guardians should contribute to the reduction of dog overpopulation through spay/neuter and ensure dogs are permanently identified to assist in reunification should they become lost or stolen.

Whenever dogs are being used for work, they may face additional risks to their physical and psychological well-being. Such risks concern the ways in which they are bred, raised, housed, trained and transported, as well as the activities themselves. To address specific issues to working dogs, the BC SPCA would support:

  • regulations governing the care and treatment of working dogs including policies mandating rehoming of working dogs at the end of their working life if they can thrive in an adoptive home; and
  • policies and funding aimed at replacing the use of dogs in science and explosive detection.

Background updated – July 2017

See also:
Animal Fighting
Animals in the Film and Television Industry
Animals in Recreation, Sport & Entertainment
Animal Training
Animals Used in Science
Selective Breeding of Companion Animals
Cosmetic and Other Non-Therapeutic Alterations
Tethering of Dogs
Dangerous Dogs and Public Safety

Definitions

Enrichment: A feature of an animal’s social and physical environment that improves the animal’s welfare beyond the animal’s most basic needs for survival.

Guardian: A person or organization that is primarily responsible for the welfare, care and management of an animal. An owner may be referred to as a guardian, but the term guardian is preferred in order to express that the relationship is one of responsibility for the care of an animal, not just ownership of property.

Humane: Actions that promote good welfare and minimize suffering.

Humane Training: Training or caring for an animal without using pain, fear, physical or verbal intimidation techniques.

Five Freedoms: A concept first developed in 1965 by The Brambell Committee, formed by the UK government to examine the conditions on commercial farms. Now internationally recognized, the Five Freedoms are considered applicable to all animals.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms (adapted from the original list) are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  2. Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  3. Freedom from distress;
  4. Freedom from discomfort;
  5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms form the basis of the Society’s Charter and describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of all animals in human care. The Society acknowledges that these freedoms are not enforceable and that absolute provision of these freedoms may not be possible, but strongly encourages all animal guardians to strive to provide them.

Welfare: An animal’s quality of life. An animal’s welfare depends upon both his/her physical health and affective state.

Animals experience good welfare when they are able to experience positive feelings arising from pleasurable activities and the fulfillment of behavioural needs, and when they are free from poor physical health and negative feelings (e.g. pain, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear and frustration).

Working Dog: Dogs kept for any purpose related to work activities, commercial profit, recreation, or public good.

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