Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #231
CE Offered: BACB
Behavioral Indications of Welfare: How Behavior Analysts Contribute to Objective Measures of Animal Well-Being
Sunday, May 26, 2019
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Swissôtel, Lucerne Ballroom Level, Alpine 1/2
Area: AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Janie A Funk (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Megan Elizabeth Arant (Texas Tech University)
CE Instructor: Megan Elizabeth Arant, M.A.

Welfare can be a complex construct to define and measure. Some caretakers approach welfare in a topographical sense that is characterized by implementing certain environmental arrangements that are presumed to improve animal well-being. Alternatively, a functional approach can be taken which involves objective outcome measures. Identifying objective outcome measures comes with its own challenges and it is not always obvious if and how a behavior is related to welfare. We may consider welfare on a continuum that caretakers must consider and make decisions upon regarding what it means to make progress towards greater welfare of the animal. Furthermore, histories of the individual animal and species influence what efforts are required to assess and improve the animal’s well-being. Organizational contingencies may also make it difficult to sufficiently address welfare concerns. This symposium will provide examples of how behavior analysts have contributed to behavior-informed welfare measures in a variety of applied settings. Insight into the challenges of navigating organizational constraints will be discussed, as well as recommendations for collaborating with other professionals towards improved welfare of animals.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): animal training, animal welfare, interdisciplinary collaboration
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts interested in utilizing our science and technology to positively influence the welfare of animals are encouraged to attend.

Solid Foundations: Behavioral Goal Setting to Improve Enrichment Evaluation
CHRISTY A. ALLIGOOD (Disney's Animal Kingdom and University of Florida)
Abstract: Modern zoos use environmental enrichment to provide animals with choices and opportunities for species typical behavior. The SPIDER model of environmental enrichment (Setting goals, Planning, Implementing, Documenting, Evaluating, Re-adjusting) was introduced in 2001 and is now a part of the accreditation standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Despite wide acceptance of the model, which includes an “Evaluation” component, zoos have long struggled to systematically evaluate enrichment efforts on an ongoing basis. One challenge is that environmental enrichment strategies are often item-based rather than behavior-based. This can lead to uncertainty in the evaluation process. In this presentation I will discuss the “Setting goals” element of the model and its importance as a foundation for behavior-based enrichment and systematic evaluation.
Advances in the Assessment and Measurement of Captive Animal Welfare
KATHRYN L. KALAFUT (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: A common goal of captive animal settings is to create environments that allow animals to behave as naturally as possible. This is often measured in terms of welfare. Identifying and defining the variables that make up an animal’s welfare is a challenging task that requires intimate knowledge of both the species and individual. Welfare is dynamic and would optimally be measured continuously. Developing methods to continuously and reliably measure welfare adds another layer of complexity for captive animal settings, but does not need to be a limiting factor. The goal of this talk is to highlight how the utilization of current technology, basic knowledge in the experimental analysis of behavior, and intuitive collaborations can greatly enhance our knowledge of captive animal welfare. Examples will include current research being conducted by the presenter in collaboration with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, which includes the implementation of radio frequency identification technology to monitor swimming behavior in little blue penguins, an operant chamber-inspired board with Asian Elephants, and a lickometer to measure and reinforce water consumption in domestic and wild cats.

Assessing and Maintaining Welfare in Shelter Dogs Using Behavior Analysis


With improvements in shelter adoptions and reduced volume of animals entering many shelters, some shelters now have the ability to keep animals for longer periods of time until they are adopted. However, with this comes new challenges for keeping dogs behaviorally healthy during their stay at the shelter. This, coupled with most shelters limits on staff and resources, makes finding programs that are easily implemented essential. We will discuss research looking at assessing welfare of dogs in shelters using behavior and two programs that were focused on improving welfare while minimizing the impact on staff time and shelter resources. The two programs are co-housing shelter dogs and brief sleepovers. In the co-housing study, dog-friendly dogs were paired with another dog or kenneled alone and behavior was assessed over a seven-day period. The brief sleepover study evaluated dogs before, during, and after a one- or two-day sleepover with a volunteer foster. We will discuss what impacts those programs had on the behavior and welfare of shelter dogs and where they point for future interventions.


Shelter to Home Transitions: Sending Training Home With the Adopted Pet


In an animal shelter, welfare ideally includes husbandry, enrichment, behavior assessment and training, as well as finding the right home for the animal. The right home ideally includes families who are motivated to train the pet to be a good family and community member. To further this mission, for animals with special behavioral needs, a pre-adoption behavioral counseling session was required that entailed a discussion of the problem behavior, what assessment had been done, and what training had been effective (or not). The adopter was then instructed in how to carry out the training before they took the animal home, and they reported progress as the animal made the adjustment with its new family. They then came back in in the following month to report as to how the training was going and to ask any questions. Along with other programs, this can be an effective model for adoption of animals with problem behaviors.




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