Many behaviours in domestic animals, such as the ‘stable vices’ of horses, are treated because they are considered undesirable for economic or cultural reasons, and not because the activity affects the horse’s quality of life. The impact of a behaviour on the human reporter is not a function of its impact on the animal performer, and an understanding of the causes effects of the particular activity is necessary to assess the costs and benefits of treatment. Where the behaviour is a sign of poor welfare, such as an inadequate environment, treatment can best be achieved by removing these underlying causal factors. Pharmacological or physical prevention of a behaviour can be justified only if the behaviour causes harm to the performer or to others. In these cases, prevention of the behaviour without addressing its causes is no cure and may result in its perseverance in a modified form or the disruption of the animal’s ability to adapt to its environment. Where the behavioural ‘problem’ causes no harm and is not related to poor housing, then the education of the reporter, rather than treatment of the performer, may be the best solution.
|Publication Title||Equine Veterinary Journal|
|Publisher||University of Guelph|
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