Behaviour 2019
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Investigating the Effects of Housing and Social Interaction on the Welfare of Shelter-Living Dogs
Lisa M Gunter1, Emily M Blade1, Liv Hagen2, Rachel J Gilchrist1, Rebecca T Barber3, Larissa Vollin1, Graham Brayshaw2, Clive DL Wynne1. 1Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States; 2Animal Humane Society, Golden Valley, Minnesota, United States; 3 Division of Education Leadership and Innovation, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States

Surprisingly, little scientific attention has been paid to how differences in living conditions can affect the welfare of dogs in animal shelters. In this presentation, I’ll describe research conducted in which we investigated how housing and social contact with other dogs affected the stress and immune function of shelter dogs. During the study, urine and feces were collected for cortisol and Secretory Immunoglobin A (S-IgA) analysis. Traditional and novel housing were tested along with no social contact with other dogs or three, 15-minute sessions a day. We found that dogs’ S-IgA differed significantly when testing both housing and social contact, such that S-IgA values were higher when dogs were living in novel-designed kennels and lower when interacting with other dogs. Furthermore, we found dogs’ cortisol was highest when living in novel housing and lowest in traditional kennels, both without social contact. While future explorations are needed to better understand the influential components of these procedures, these findings provide compelling evidence that living conditions and social interactions can impact the welfare of dogs in animal shelters.