This week is the anniversary of the First International Conference on Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare that took place in the UK 2016. All the talks are on their YouTube channel.
See our article following the Conference.
I was honoured to give a presentation - and in that process to learn about the knowledge, methodology, and tools available from human behaviour change theory and practice to help us.
My talk is posted on the HBC's YouTube channel under the title: How Beliefs and Attitudes about Dog Health and Welfare Limit Behaviour Change.
In fact, the entire title was:
Don't Know or Don't Care? How Beliefs and Attitudes about Dog Health and Welfare Limit Behaviour Change.
I am in general not a fan of watching videos of myself. But this is a good talk - helped by the fact it was prescribed to be only 15 minutes long!
However, reviewing this talk I was struck by something that was equally positive and extremely disappointing.
The material in this talk is as relevant today as it was 4 years ago.
Perhaps even more so. We are coming out with more material this week on challenges around brachycephalic dogs that will highlight the pros and cons of legislative actions, the diversity in opinions, even from those within the world of pedigree dogs, from total denial to intense concern. There will be more talk about complexity, and the role of various stakeholders , e.g. veterinarians -- are they really doing all they can?
I know that 4 years is not very long in terms of change for people or dogs. But we have also recently completed a chapter for an upcoming textbook and that work highlighted that problems in flat-faced dogs have been discussed at least since the late 1960's. So that is not 4 years, it is over 50 years. There has been a phenomenal increase in evidence for the prevalence and high risk of health issues, many of which incur welfare concerns, in the worst affected breeds. This has intensified in the last 10 years as the popularity of these breeds has increased, and then skyrocketed (see our Get a GRIHP! article on French Bulldogs). There have been many creative attempts to educate the public, and research to understand attachment to these dogs.
Given all that.. I am sadly concerned that:
- There may still be some 'Don't Know' people out there... and we can continue trying to reach them.
- But, unfortunately there are some people, some very loud on social media, some in positions of influence in the dog world, who are displaying behaviour that comes across as 'Don't Care'.
- At least it seems that they don't care ENOUGH about the dogs to be willing to undertake the human behaviour change needed to sustain a healthy future for the breeds they 'love'.
We have to find a way to help people understand that admitting there are problems is the first step towards resolving them.