Members of the Pod: Do Marine Mammal Trainers Perceive a Bond with the Animals They Care For?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Thomas Welsh, Sabrina Brando, Geoff Hosey, Samantha J Ward
Journal of Zoological Botanical Gardens
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Animals under human care interact with their caretakers, potentially resulting in human–animal bonds (HABs), which can enhance wellbeing for both. Previous research has suggested that keepers perceive bonds with their animals, but investigation of a different zoo role working with one species has not yet been completed. Here, we investigate the animal trainers’ perception of HABs with captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). A modified Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) was used to measure the strength of perceived HABs between trainers and both dolphins and companion animals in their care. LAPS questionnaires were completed by 128 trainers from 35 different collections worldwide. Most respondents perceived themselves to have a bond with a dolphin, although LAPS scores for attachment to dolphins (DA) were significantly lower than for companion animals (CA). Female LAPS scores were significantly higher than males for both DA and CA. Multiple regression demonstrated that the facility and trainer gender were significant predictors of CA. LAPS scores for trainers were comparable to those for zoo animals, which reflects a strong attachment to the dolphins they work with. However, this attachment was not as strong as for their companion animals, and was influenced by the collection they worked for.


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