Promoting a Duty of Care Towards Animals

Teenager with chickensAn investigation of 13-17 year olds’ attitudes and behaviour towards animals, including the development and testing of interventions to promote the concept of 'Duty of Care'.

This research follows on from the project, Promoting a 'Duty of Care' towards animals among young people, also funded by DEFRA. While the initial study focussed on young children, in this new project we aim to better understand the perspectives of 13-17 year olds in relation to animals and their welfare. The findings will inform the design of evidence-based education materials to improve attitudes and behaviour.


As part of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) the concept of a ‘Duty of Care’ (DOC) towards animals has been extended to all vertebrates managed, used and cared for by humans.

Children and young people are particularly important target audiences when considering extending a sense of Duty of Care to animals in society. Previous research has suggested that experiences early in life can have long-lasting effects on attitudes and behaviour towards animals, and young people’s interactions with animals are particularly meaningful.

Teenager with dogA key aim is to find out how animals fit into teenagers’ lives within the broader context of their physical and mental health, lifestyle, and empathy.

There are several phases to the project.

  1. The first phase involves secondary analysis of data collected in Scotland, England and Wales in 2010. The data is part of the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study in order to examine the relationships between pet ownership, attitudes, and lifestyle/health.
  2. A new UK-wide online survey of 13-17 year olds will be designed to investigate in more detail teenagers' views of and behaviour towards animals.
  3. In-depth interviews will also be carried out to understand teenagers’ perceptions, attitudes, and interactions with animals.
  4. We will develop appropriate educational material to enhance a sense of Duty of Care to animals among teenagers. These will be used in an intervention that we will evaluate systematically.

Current Activities

Launch of online questionnaire.

We are also looking for teenagers to participate in an interview about animals. If you wish to participate please contact Dr Melanie Connor via the details below.

Student with big horseProject Team

  • Professor Alistair Lawrence, SRUC Animal Behaviour and Welfare (Principal Investigator)
  • Dr Melanie Connor, SRUC Animal Behaviour and Welfare
  • Dr Joanne Williams, Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Candace Currie OBE, CAHRU, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Ferran Marsa Sambola, CAHRU, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews
  • Professor Fiona Brooks, PI HBSC England, University of Hertfordshire
  • Mr Chris Roberts, PI HBSC Wales, Welsh Assembly Government/Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru

Dr Melanie Connor

Social Scientist

Address: Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Telephone: 0131 651 9361


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