Abstracts: Public perceptions of Australian assistance dogs

Previous studies have revealed cultural differences in perceptions of assistance dogs, but this has not been investigated in almost 20 years. This study aimed to develop an understanding of the Australian public’s perceptions toward both assistance and companion dogs.

A questionnaire was completed by 258 Australians asking about their interest in, attitudes towards, and perceived happiness of the two types of dogs. Results revealed participants were equally interested in them, but supportive of the use of assistance dogs, and perceived them as happier.

Qualitative analysis revealed participants commonly endorsed the practical benefits of assistance dogs and the emotional benefits of companion dogs. Differences in happiness ratings can potentially be explained by the common endorsement that companion dogs are sometimes neglected while assistance dogs enjoy working and constant companionship with their handler.

However, several participants expressed concern regarding the restrictive nature of the assistance work. There was an increase in concerns raised for the welfare of both dogs as compared to previous studies, suggesting a rise in concern about dog welfare and the ethics of keeping dogs for human benefits.

Paris Emmanuelle Gibson 1Jessica Lee Oliva 1 2

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2021 Jun 17;1-13.

 doi: 10.1080/10888705.2021.1931869. Online ahead of print.

1School of Psychological Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.2College of Healthcare Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

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