Five Domains Model of Welfare

The 2020 Five Domains Model for Welfare Assessment

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A new, updated version of the Five Domains Model, the gold standard in animal welfare assessment and monitoring, has just been published in the Open Access journal Animals.

Read a 2019 interview with Professor Emeritus David Mellor, the architect of the Five Domains Model and lead author of this new version.

This review is the latest in a succession of updates of the Five Domains Model, which, at each stage, has incorporated the latest evidence-based understanding of animal welfare assessment.

The Five Domains Model considers the animal’s subjective experience – how they might feel about the conditions we impose – and it is a tool for thoroughly assessing animal welfare in order to guide its management. It is therefore, very useful for anyone developing a welfare strategy and  for educating people about the welfare of horses or any other animal.

It includes 3 physiological domains – nutrition, living environment, and health and fitness, and 1 behaviour domain, with the 5th domain. The conditions of each domain have an impact on the animal’s subjective experience (the 5th domain, mental affect) from which you can assess if the animal has negative, neutral or positive welfare.

The 2020 Five Domains model adds much needed detail to the behaviour domain, which has been subdivided into 3 key areas: interactions with the environment, interactions with other animals, and interactions with humans. The physiological domains that detail the nutrition, living environment, and health and fitness remain the same as with the previous Model.

The 2020 Model includes specific guidance on how to evaluate the negative and/or positive impacts of human behaviour on animal welfare. Persons whose actions may be evaluated include, but are not limited to, livestock handlers, owners of draught animals, veterinary care staff, pound/shelter staff, zoo-keepers, wildlife managers, hunters, researchers, companion animal owners, owners of sport/recreational animals, animal trainers and service animal handlers.

Examples of situations where human–animal interactions may have negative welfare impacts include: when animals have had little or no prior human contact, when human presence adds to already threatening circumstances, when human actions are directly unpleasant, threatening and/or noxious, when humans’ prior actions are remembered as being aversive or noxious and when the actions of bonded humans cause unintended harms.

In contrast, situations where human–animal interactions may have positive welfare impacts include: when the companionable presence of humans provides company and feelings of safety, when humans provide preferred foods, tactile contacts and/or training reinforcements, when humans participate in enjoyable routine activities or in engaging variable activities, when the presence of familiar humans is calming in threatening circumstances and when humans act to end periods of deprivation, inhibition or harm.

In horses, for example, the new Model makes it easier to emphasise the 3 Fs – Friends, Forage and Freedom – as well as the quality of human-horse interactions.

The paper, which is open access and can be read here, has useful figures with examples of the conditions and human factors that contribute to negative mental states, and those that promote positive mental states.

Horses and People Magazine has summarised the Model into an accessible poster – perfect to print in A2 – is available for download by clicking here.

The article is titled: The 2020 Five Domains Model: Including Human–Animal Interactions in Assessments of Animal Welfare by David J. Mellor, Ngaio J. Beausoleil, Katherine E. Littlewood, Andrew N. McLean, Paul D. McGreevy, Bidda Jones and Cristina Wilkins. You can read it here.

2020 Five Domains Model for Welfare Assessment

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