Human–dog relationships are an important contributor to the welfare of dogs, but little is known about the importance of socioeconomic status of the dogs’ owners. We conducted a retrospective study of canine welfare complaints, using Australian government statistics on the socioeconomic status of the inhabitants at the location of the alleged welfare issue. The socioeconomic score of inhabitants at the relevant postcode was assumed to be that of the plaintiff. Our dataset included 107,597 complaints that had been received by RSPCA Queensland between July 2008 and June 2018, each with the following information: the number of dogs involved, dog(s) age, breed(s), suburb, postcode, date received, and complaint code(s) (describing the type of complaint). The median index score for relative social advantage of the locations where the alleged welfare concern occurred was less than the median score for the population of Queensland, suggesting that welfare concerns in dogs were more commonly reported in areas with inhabitants of low socioeconomic status. It was also less if the dog being reported was not of a recognised breed, compared to dogs of recognised breeds. Dogs reported to be in the gundog breed group were in the most socioeconomically advantaged postcodes, followed by toy, hound, non-sporting, working dog, terrier, and utility breed groups. Reports of alleged cruelty, insufficient food and/or water, a dog being not exercised or being confined/tethered, failure to provide shelter or treatment, overcrowding, a dog being in poor condition or living in poor conditions were most likely to be made in relation to dogs in low socioeconomic postcodes. Reports of dogs being left in a hot vehicle unattended were more likely to be made in relation to dogs in high socioeconomic postcodes. It is concluded that both canine welfare complaints and dogs in specific breed groups appear to be related to the owner’s socioeconomic status. This study may be used to improve public awareness and to tailor educational campaigns toward different populations.
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