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Open AccessArticle

Socioeconomic Influences on Reports of Canine Welfare Concerns to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Queensland, Australia

1
Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, University of Queensland, White House Building (8134), Gatton Campus, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia
2
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4076, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(10), 711; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100711
Received: 28 June 2019 / Revised: 30 August 2019 / Accepted: 18 September 2019 / Published: 23 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dog Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
The role of the socioeconomic status of dog owners in canine welfare concerns is not fully understood. We conducted a retrospective study of 107,597 canine welfare complaints attended by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Queensland from 2008 to 2018. We explored the relationship between the owner’s socioeconomic status and reported (rather than confirmed) complaints about welfare of dogs. The socioeconomic status of the owner was estimated from the postcode of where the alleged welfare issue occurred, using government statistics for Socio-Economic Indexes of different regions of Australia. Reported complaints were correlated with socioeconomic scores. There was a lower median socioeconomic score in our study group compared to the entire Queensland state, indicating that alleged canine welfare concerns were more likely to be reported in areas with inhabitants of low socioeconomic status. The status was also low if the complaint was about a crossbred rather than a purebred dog. Among the purebred dogs, complaints involving working dogs, terriers, and utility breeds were associated with the lowest socioeconomic scores. The following complaints were associated with low socioeconomic status: cruelty, insufficient food and/or water, a dog not being exercised, a dog being confined/tethered, failure to provide shelter or treatment, overcrowding, a dog being in poor condition or living in poor conditions. Increased status was observed in alleged cases of a dog being left in a hot car unattended.
Human–dog relationships are an important contributor to the welfare of dogs, but little is known about the importance of socioeconomic status of the dogs’ owners. We conducted a retrospective study of canine welfare complaints, using Australian government statistics on the socioeconomic status of the inhabitants at the location of the alleged welfare issue. The socioeconomic score of inhabitants at the relevant postcode was assumed to be that of the plaintiff. Our dataset included 107,597 complaints that had been received by RSPCA Queensland between July 2008 and June 2018, each with the following information: the number of dogs involved, dog(s) age, breed(s), suburb, postcode, date received, and complaint code(s) (describing the type of complaint). The median index score for relative social advantage of the locations where the alleged welfare concern occurred was less than the median score for the population of Queensland, suggesting that welfare concerns in dogs were more commonly reported in areas with inhabitants of low socioeconomic status. It was also less if the dog being reported was not of a recognised breed, compared to dogs of recognised breeds. Dogs reported to be in the gundog breed group were in the most socioeconomically advantaged postcodes, followed by toy, hound, non-sporting, working dog, terrier, and utility breed groups. Reports of alleged cruelty, insufficient food and/or water, a dog being not exercised or being confined/tethered, failure to provide shelter or treatment, overcrowding, a dog being in poor condition or living in poor conditions were most likely to be made in relation to dogs in low socioeconomic postcodes. Reports of dogs being left in a hot vehicle unattended were more likely to be made in relation to dogs in high socioeconomic postcodes. It is concluded that both canine welfare complaints and dogs in specific breed groups appear to be related to the owner’s socioeconomic status. This study may be used to improve public awareness and to tailor educational campaigns toward different populations. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; animal welfare; animal cruelty; RSPCA; shelter; socioeconomic dog; animal welfare; animal cruelty; RSPCA; shelter; socioeconomic
MDPI and ACS Style

Shih, H.Y.; Paterson, M.B.A.; Phillips, C.J.C. Socioeconomic Influences on Reports of Canine Welfare Concerns to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Queensland, Australia. Animals 2019, 9, 711. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100711

AMA Style

Shih HY, Paterson MBA, Phillips CJC. Socioeconomic Influences on Reports of Canine Welfare Concerns to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Queensland, Australia. Animals. 2019; 9(10):711. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100711

Chicago/Turabian Style

Shih, Hao Y.; Paterson, Mandy B.A.; Phillips, Clive J.C. 2019. "Socioeconomic Influences on Reports of Canine Welfare Concerns to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Queensland, Australia" Animals 9, no. 10: 711. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100711

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