sealPurdue Animal Well-being Tips

June 1995

Animal well-being efforts becoming more diverse and popular

This tipsheet has story ideas on animal well-being activities at Purdue University, part of a national trend. In particular, efforts focusing on dog and cat behavior are becoming more common. Efforts and programs range from grief counseling for owners who have lost pets to studies of wild animals in the suburbs, from graduate-degree programs in animal behavior to studies on improving living conditions of production animals. Tufts University, the University of California-Davis and Purdue are among the most active of North American universities in animal well-being.

Purdue has several initiatives in various stages that relate to animal well-being. Some are among the first of their kind in the country.

Contact information for faculty from Purdue and other universities is listed at end of this tipsheet. Photos and/or news releases, available with all tips, may be obtained from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096.

Center studies production animals on their own turf

Concerns about how animals are raised and used for food has prompted the creation of a research center that will look to the animal to help define its own well-being. The Center for Research on Well-Being in Food Animals is a partnership between Purdue's School of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. Center scientists are developing ways to measure animal well-being objectively through such indicators as heart rate, blood pressure, immune-system responses and hormone secretion. The scientists also want to be able to differentiate between good stress and bad stress. For example, blood pressure and heart rate go up when an animal is mating or is exposed to a nonthreatening change of scenery, but that doesn't necessarily mean the animal is distressed.

New clinic to focus on dog-behavior problems

About 40 percent to 60 percent of the roughly four million to five million dogs that end up in U.S. humane shelters each year are destroyed, with a significant number of them surrendered because of behavior problems. "Bad behavior is the No. 1 killer of dogs in this country," says Professor Alan Beck, an authority on the interaction between people and animals. To help reduce that statistic, Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine will have an Animal Behavior Clinic in operation by the end of this year. The clinic will conduct studies on the causes and treatment of dog behavior problems, provide continuing-education programs for veterinarians and educational materials for dog owners, and develop behavior courses for the school's curricula.

Purdue breeds less feisty chickens

After 12 years of effort, Purdue researcher William Muir has bred a kinder, gentler chicken that co-exists peacefully with other chickens in multiple-bird cages found in most egg-production facilities. Applying the principles of population genetics, Muir was able to breed a chicken that exhibits less cannabalism, doesn't have to be beak-trimmed and produces more eggs than its commercial counterparts. Despite a fire that destroyed most of his flock in March, Muir vows to replicate the work in three years. He was able to start a new flock with birds he got back from a company that was testing his line on a commercial scale. He plans eventually to cross those with a line he recently received from Canada in pursuit of a more passive layer hen.

Center studies the bond between people and animals

Established in 1982, the interdisciplinary Center for Applied Ethology and Human-Animal Interaction focuses on the interrelationships among people, animals and the environment. For example, the center is concerned with such issues as how people and animals affect each other psychologically and physiologically and the use of animals as health sentinels to detect environmental hazards to people. Activities include seminars on animal welfare and human-animal interaction, a course on news media coverage of animal issues, and a course on the ethics of biomedical research. Ethology is the study of animals in their natural habitats.

Program gives animals fair share of care

Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine put animal care-giving in the spotlight when it implemented in 1991 the first undergraduate animal-welfare program in the country. Students may earn a certificate in animal welfare, focusing on the humane care and management of farm, laboratory, pet and zoo animals. Professor Alan Beck says graduates of the program are better equipped to educate animal owners, consumers, scientists and legislators about animal-welfare issues. "More information is needed that relates animal health and welfare to stress, the environment, behavior, husbandry practices and productivity," Beck says. "We need people who understand the science, politics and emotions of animal welfare." Ten graduates have completed the program and received certificates. To assess the program's effectiveness, graduates are being tracked to see if they're working in related fields. Eventually, an undergraduate major and a graduate degree in animal welfare may be offered.

Study may help reduce number of dogs given up for adoption

A Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine study may challenge some previous beliefs about why owners give their dogs or cats to shelters. "For example, when shelter personnel ask people why they're giving up their pet, often the answer is because they're moving or they got it as a gift," says Dr. Gary Patronek, a fellow in the veterinary school. "While that may be true, it might not necessarily be a real risk factor. We want to uncover the underlying factors -- perhaps income, breed, if the pet's been sterilized -- that influence people to relinquish their pets to shelters." The results, available in early July, may help animal shelters and other animal-welfare groups develop educational and intervention programs to reduce the number of pets destroyed at shelters.

Computer simulations replace animals as teaching tools

Concern for the use of animals in the classroom has prompted several Purdue specialists to develop computer programs that make diagnosis and drug testing possible on a computer screen instead of a live animal. For example, Craig Marcus, associate professor of toxicology, created a computer model that lets pharmacy students use simulated animals to test the interactions among a variety of drugs. In the School of Veterinary Medicine, efforts involve development of a 3-D representation of a dog so students can practice surgical techniques or learn anatomy, and development of computer-based lessons to teach physiology and anatomy. Dr. Fred Roesel, professor of veterinary physiology, and colleagues have developed video laser disks that, when paired with lessons on a computer, help students do neurological exams of a horse, dog and cat without using the real animal.

Professor studies what makes cows content

For 30 years Professor Jack Albright has worked to improve conditions for animals and farm workers in the dairy and livestock industries. He conceived many of the innovations that are widespread practices today, such as grooved flooring in dairy barns to prevent dairy cow slips and falls, and floor-level feed bunks that let cows eat in a more natural grazing-like position. One test that he and Purdue researchers Julie Morrow-Tesch, Dan Bollinger and Simon Kenyon developed involved restraining dairy cows in head locks for four hours and then releasing the cows for observation. The theory is that the behavior the animals missed most would be the one they would perform first upon release. Preliminary results showed many of the cows first engaged in grooming themselves and other cows. Albright, professor of animal sciences and veterinary medicine, also collaborated with a musical therapist to study the effect of certain kinds of music on cows' milk production and found that the bovines preferred classical to rock-and-roll.


Center studies production animals on their own turf:

Assistant Professor Julie Morrow-Tesch, director, (765) 494-8022; Internet,
Professor Bud Harmon, head, Department of Animal Sciences, (765) 494-4806; Internet,Bud_Harmon@acn,
Professor Jack Albright is on sabbatical until July 15 but can receive messages at (765) 494-8010 or
Assistant Professor Gary Weesner, neuroendrocinologist, (765) 494-6938; Internet,

New clinic to focus on dog-behavior problems:

Professor Alan Beck, director, Center for Applied Ethology and Human-Animal Interaction, (765) 494-0854; Internet,
Dr. Hugh Lewis, dean, School of Veterinary Medicine, (765) 494-7608; Internet,

Purdue breeds less feisty chickens:

Professor William Muir, (765) 494-8032; Internet,

Center studies the bond between people and animals:

Professor Alan Beck, director, (765) 494-0854; Internet,

Computer simulations replace animals as teaching tools:

Professor Craig Marcus, (765) 494-9317; Internet,
Dr. Fred Roesel, (765) 494-8635; Internet,

Program gives animals fair share of care:

Professor Alan Beck, (765) 494-0854; Internet,

Study may help reduce number of dogs given up for adoption:

Dr. Gary Patronek, (765) 494-2294; Internet,
Dr. Lawrence Glickman, (765) 494-6031; Internet,

Professor studies what makes cows content:

Professor Jack Albright is on sabbatical until July 15 but can receive messages at (765) 494-8010 or Internet,
Assistant Professor Julie Morrow-Tesch, director, Purdue's Center for Research on Well-Being of Food Animals, (765) 494-8022; Internet,

Tufts' Center for Animals and Public Policy:

Professor Andrew Rowan, director, (508) 839-7991; Internet,

University of California-Davis:

Dr. Benjamin Hart, director, Animal Behavior Clinic, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, (916) 752-4863;

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To receive the text of these story ideas via e-mail, send an e-mail message with the text "send punews 9504f33" to this address: Purdue News Service also maintains a searchable data base of faculty experts and posts news releases, experts lists and story tips on a web server at and a gopher server at

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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