A Reexamination of the Relationship between Training Practices and Welfare in the Management of Ambassador Animals

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Steve Martin, Grey Stafford, David S. Miller
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There is an ethical need to document and develop best practices for meeting ambassador animals’ welfare needs within the context of meeting zoo and aquarium program objectives. This is because ambassador animals experience direct and frequent contact with humans. This paper rigorously synthesizes behavioral research and theory, contemporary practices, and personal experiences to offer key concepts that can be applied to meet ambassador animal welfare needs. These key concepts include addressing an animal’s recognition of choice and control, the use of the most positive and least intrusive effective interventions when training animals to participate in programming, and an overall reduction in aversive strategy use. Our model for increasing ambassador animal welfare focuses on seven main areas of concern, including the following: choosing the most suitable animal for the program; choosing the human with the right skills and knowledge for the program; using the most positive, least intrusive, effective training methods; developing a strong trusting relationship between trainer and animal; developing a comprehensive enrichment program; the need for institutional support; and creating opportunities for animals to practice species-appropriate behaviors. Our model will provide guidelines for improved ambassador animal welfare that can be refined with future research.


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