What are the most pressing welfare issues in companion dogs? In this article we look at the priorities of several organizations working in this area and contrast their focus; this not meant to me an exhaustive coverage but to highlight the range of issues that come under the term 'welfare' and to underline the complex interactions across health, well-being and welfare in companion animals. There is no global system to rank the 'worst' or 'most important' problems. But as we look at any issue that is of great importance to us, personally, it is good to remember that dogs and people exist together and separately in a complex environment that encompasses physical, physiological, emotional, societal and other factors. It is important to consider the broader context even as we focus on specific issues.
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare : "Science in the Service of Animal Welfare"
UFAW – the international animal welfare science society Strategy 2013 to 2023
(note: the UFAW does not limit their focus to dogs.)
"UFAW's view of animal welfare is that it is a concern about an animal's experience of the quality of its life – its 'pleasures and pains' - its subjective feelings (momentary or over a period). It applies, therefore, to sentient animals but it is recognised that ascribing sentience is a difficult judgment. Health status is usually very important to welfare because injuries and diseases cause pain and distress. For good welfare, UFAW encourages science that strives to determine animals' needs and how these needs can be met."
On the UFAW website, a main focus for dogs is "Genetic welfare problems of companion animals".
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies
Humane Society of the United States
In their accomplishments section (relevant to dogs):
(HSUS note on pet overpopulation and euthanasia: "Since the 1970s, euthanasia numbers in animal shelters have declined sharply—from about 15 million cats and dogs euthanized in 1970 to approximately 3.4 million in 2013—even as pet ownership has increased steadily.")
Dogs Trust (UK)
See the News page for the latest issues
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)
WSAVA Mission Statement: "To advance the health and welfare of companion animals worldwide through an educated, committed and collaborative global community of veterinary peers."
A couple of key initiatives:
Animal Wellness and Welfare Committee: Focus on standards of health and welfare in companion animal practice; continuing education and symposia.
Hereditary Diseases Committee: "The Hereditary Diseases Committee was formed as a comprehensive resource on hereditary diseases and genetic predispositions. This database represents a culmination of the work of the Committee, and is constantly evolving with advances in the field of veterinary genetics."