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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #269
CE Offered: BACB — 
Changing Lanes: Ethical Requirements for Expanding Your Scope of Competence to Applied Animal Behavior
Sunday, May 26, 2024
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 102 AB
Area: AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Darlene E. Crone-Todd (Salem State University)
CE Instructor: Darlene E. Crone-Todd, Ph.D.

With increasing interest in applied animal behavior (AAB), there is a temptation for researchers and practitioners from other fields to jump into AAB feet first. Despite the generality of behavioral principles across species, navigating new species, settings, or behavioral techniques can exceed one’s scope of competence. Rushing into new domains without doing due diligence can pose risks not only to ourselves but also to the animals, potentially harming their well-being, and posing a threat to the reputation of behavior analysis. In this symposium, we will focus on ethical and practical requirements aspiring researchers and practitioners should meet prior to entering AAB. We will highlight ethological and welfare issues to be aware of, as well as point to resources providing these skills and knowledge. We will discuss the importance of ensuring social validity for our procedures, and where to find current best practices. We will discuss all this using the scope of competence framework, referencing our field’s ethical guidelines. Moreover, the symposium extends support to experienced AAB professionals contemplating engagement with novel species or unfamiliar environments, facilitating more informed and responsible approaches to their practice. A panel discussion is also being offered and should be attended in concert with this symposium.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): animal behavior, ethical practice, ethics, scope-of-competence
Target Audience:

Basic instruction level Appropriate for BCBAs, researchers, students

Learning Objectives: 1. Explain what scope of competence means especially as it pertains to entering the field of applied animal behavior 2. Describe how we should use the ethology of the target species to guide our practice and ensure safety of the practitioner and animal 3. Discuss what animal welfare is and how we should integrate it into our decision making for interventions 4. Revisit and reintegrate the BACB code of ethics to all behavior analytic activities
Scope of Competence and Ethical Considerations for Conducting Applied Animal Research and Practice
Abstract: The field of applied animal behavior (AAB) continues to grow in popularity. With new interest from students, and the utility of AAB work serving as an alternative to traditional lab animal classes, more human ABA practitioners and basic researchers are dipping their toes in the AAB pool. While more research in AAB is needed and encouraged, ensuring that researchers and practitioners are moving into AAB with the appropriate knowledge and skills to best serve the animals, their caregivers, and the field of behavior analysis is crucial. The inappropriate choice or application of behavioral techniques in animal populations can have dire consequences to the animal, including potentially euthanasia, and can damage the public image of behavior analysis. We will utilize the Competence and Confidence Checklist designed by Brodhead and colleagues to serve as a guide for new researchers and practitioners moving into AAB. We will especially focus on issues of identifying a scope of competence with a new species, and implementing humane, effective, and socially valid interventions. We will discuss where to find current best practices; refer back to the BACB code of ethics to determine our training approach; and identify resources for expanding one’s scope of competence into AAB.

Understanding Animal Welfare to Inform Ethical Practice: A Brief History and Look Forward

KATHRYN L. KALAFUT (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

The ethical considerations around human-animal interaction in the United States came into focus in the 1960’s with the Animal Welfare Act, and was furthered in scientific research with the requirements imposed by the Institutional Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in the 1980’s. Since this time, research on animal welfare and the accompanying ethical considerations have continued to change and evolve in the areas of companion animals, veterinary practice, zoological settings, and agriculture. The bulk of the research on animal welfare, and implementation into ethical guidelines, has widely gone on outside of the United States, and outside the field of behavior analysis. This talk will first provide a (brief) overview of the evolution of animal welfare, before moving onto some current questions and approaches to animal welfare being explored today. The talk will end with suggestions as to how behavior analysts, trained and competent in this area of science, can constructively join the charge for bettering the welfare of animals in a variety of settings.


Unravelling Agonistic Behavior: Implications for Behavior Change Practices and the Role of Animal Welfare Standards

MINDY WAITE (Carroll University), Nicole Pfaller-Sadovsky (Queen's University Belfast)

This presentation delves into the complex interplay between companion animal agonistic behavior (i.e., behavior encompassing threat, attack, or defence; Broom & Fraser, 2015), behavior change strategies, ethical considerations, animal welfare standards, and legislation. Recognizing and acknowledging companion animals’ signs of fearful and/or aggressive behavior and its precursors is critical for promoting ethical practice and ensuring animal welfare. Using examples from the literature and practice, the most salient signs of fearful and aggressive behavior of cats, dogs, and horses are explained. Ethical trainers, who are also knowledgeable in early signs of agonistic behavior, prioritize the well-being and safety of animals and owners under their care. This is achieved by fostering trust and reducing fear, ultimately enhancing the lives of both animals and their human caregivers. The presentation also examines the intricate relationship between animal agonistic behavior and the ethical considerations it raises, particularly in the context of animal welfare standards, guidelines, and legislation from an international viewpoint.




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Modifed by Eddie Soh