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Anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism as influences in the quality of life of companion animals

By J. W. S. Bradshaw, R. A. Casey

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Since animal minds are private, so their perception of their own quality of life (QoL) must be also. Anthropocentrism, the interpretation of reality exclusively in terms of human values and experience, has to be guarded against in any assessment of animal welfare; for domestic pets, misapprehensions about their olfactory and cognitive abilities appear to present the greatest challenge to their welfare. Anthropomorphism, the attribution of human qualities to animals, presents a particular problem when considering companion animals, since most bonds between owners and their pets appear to be based upon a perception of the pet as almost human. Many owners report that their dogs, cats and horses are capable of feeling complex emotions, such as pride and guilt, that require a level of self-awareness that has been difficult to demonstrate even in chimpanzees. Such beliefs appear to contribute to the development of behavioural disorders in pets; for example, clinical experience suggests that the application of punishment by owners who attribute 'guilt' to their animals may unwittingly lead to compromised welfare. Anthropomorphic owners are also likely to be poor proxies for reporting their pets' QoL.

Date 2007
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 16
Issue Supplement
Pages 149-154
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Anthrozoology Institute, Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford BS40 5DU, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal rights
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Attitudes
  4. Cats
  5. Chimpanzees
  6. Dogs
  7. Great ape
  8. Horses
  9. Mammals
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. perceptions
  12. Pets and companion animals
  13. Primates
  14. quality
  15. Quality of life
  16. Social psychology and social anthropology
  1. peer-reviewed