Belief in animal sentience and affective owner attitudes are linked to positive working equid welfare across six countries

Emily Charlotte Haddy*, Faith Burden, Zoe Raw, Joao Rodrigues, Humberto Zappi, Julia Brown, Juliane Kaminski, Leanne Proops

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Belief in animal sentience and the quality of human-animal relationships
play a significant role in animal welfare. However, the link between an individual animal’s welfare and the beliefs and emotional (affective) connection of the owner to the animal is understudied. Moreover, most studies exploring links between animal welfare and attitudes to animals do so within single cultures, limiting their generalizability. In this study, we explored potential links between owner attitude, beliefs in animal sentience, and working equid welfare across four continents. Working equids represent an ideal opportunity to study human-animal relationships as 20 equids work closely with human handlers, are vital to livelihoods and fulfil varied roles globally. This study used a welfare assessment protocol alongside a questionnaire exploring owner attitudes to assess 378 participants across six countries. Overall, the general health status and body condition of equids belonging to owners with an affective (versus instrumental)
perspective and those owners who believed that their equids could feel emotions, were significantly better. Equids belonging to owners who believed that their animals could feel pain were also significantly less likely to be lame. When analyzed at the country-level, relationships between owner attitudes, belief in animal sentience and welfare were widespread 30 but not universal. Potential causal relationships between factors and theories explaining these beliefs are discussed. These results can inform future welfare initiatives by highlighting the importance of the human–equid relationship and the role that beliefs regarding animal sentience play in influencing equid welfare
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Early online date28 Jul 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 28 Jul 2023


  • Animal welfare
  • working equid
  • animal sentience
  • human–animal relationship
  • UKRI
  • ESRC

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