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Open AccessArticle

A Retrospective Analysis of Complaints to RSPCA Queensland, Australia, about Dog Welfare

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(5), 282; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050282
Received: 29 April 2019 / Revised: 17 May 2019 / Accepted: 22 May 2019 / Published: 27 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dog Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
Animal neglect and cruelty are important welfare and social issues, and dogs are one of the most commonly reported species to have experienced both. Most previous studies related to canine cruelty and welfare focused on animal abuse and dog fighting. However, literature dealing with the milder but more common forms of animal welfare concerns is limited. Therefore, this retrospective study aimed to understand the epidemiology of different types of canine welfare complaints in Queensland in the past decade and also to identify risk factors and their roles in different types of welfare complaints. The number of complaints received each year increased by 6.2% annually. The majority of complaints were neglect-related rather than related to deliberate cruelty, with the most common complaints being that dogs had poor body conformation, insufficient food and/or water, and receiving inadequate exercise. Poor living conditions and leaving dogs in a hot vehicle unattended were more commonly reported in recent years, potentially due to higher public awareness. Adult dogs that were reported were more likely to be alleged to have been poisoned, left unattended in a hot car, abandoned, and to have had inadequate exercise and shelter, compared with puppies. Puppies that were reported were more likely to be alleged to have experienced cruelty, lack of veterinary support, overcrowding, poor living and health conditions, and inappropriate surgery. Recognising which dogs are at most risk of cruelty will inform strategies to address this serious welfare problem.
Animal neglect and cruelty are important welfare and social issues. We conducted an epidemiological study of dog welfare complaints and identified risk factors. The retrospective study included 107,597 dog welfare complaints received by RSPCA Queensland from July 2008 to June 2018. The risk factors considered were the age of dogs and the year of being reported. The number of complaints received each year increased by 6.2% per year. The most common complaints were poor dog body conformation, insufficient food and/or water, dogs receiving inadequate exercise, and dogs being confined or tethered. Increasing numbers were most evident for poor living conditions and leaving dogs in a hot vehicle unattended, both of which may have resulted from increasing public awareness. The majority of complaints were neglect-related rather than related to deliberate cruelty. Compared with puppies, adult dogs were more likely to be reported to have been poisoned, left unattended in a hot car or abandoned, as well as to have had inadequate exercise and shelter. Reported puppies were more likely to be alleged to have experienced cruelty, lack of veterinary support, overcrowding, poor living and health conditions, and inappropriate surgery. In conclusion, animal neglect was the most commonly reported welfare concern in dogs. Due to an assumed increasing public awareness of some types of cruelty, the trends of reported concerns differed. Adult dogs and puppies were reported to be involved in different types of welfare concerns. Strategies to address cruelty to dogs can be informed by an understanding of risk factors and trends in types of cruelty. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; canine welfare; canine cruelty; neglect; RSPCA; age dog; canine welfare; canine cruelty; neglect; RSPCA; age
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Shih, H.Y.; Paterson, M.B.A.; Phillips, C.J.C. A Retrospective Analysis of Complaints to RSPCA Queensland, Australia, about Dog Welfare. Animals 2019, 9, 282.

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