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Furred and feathered friends: how attached are zookeepers to the animals in their care?

By V. Melfi, L. Skyner, L. Birke, S. J. Ward, W. S. Shaw, G. Hosey

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Keeper-animal relationships (KARs) appear to be important in zoos, since they can enhance the well-being of both the animals and the keepers, can make animal husbandry easier, but conversely might risk inappropriate habituation of animals and possible risks to the safety of keepers. It is, therefore, important to know more about the variables involved in relationship formation. Here we use a modified version of the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) to measure the strength of KARs between keepers and animals in their care, both in the zoo and in the home. LAPS questionnaires were completed by 187 keepers in 19 different collections across three countries. LAPS scores for attachment to zoo animals (ZA) were significantly lower than for pet animals (PA). There was no significant difference in ZA scores between different taxa, but there were significant taxon differences between PA scores. There were significant differences in both ZA and PA scores between different collections. Female respondents scored more highly than males for both ZA and PA. Multiple regression revealed that location, gender, and time spent with animals were significant predictors for ZA, while only gender and taxon were significant predictors for PA. It was concluded that PA scores were comparable with those for the general public, and reflected strong attachment of keepers to their pets, while ZA scores, although also reflecting attachment, were influenced by differences in institutional culture.

Publication Title Zoo Biology
Volume 41
Issue 2
Pages 122-129
ISBN/ISSN 0733-3188
DOI 10.1002/zoo.21656
Language English
Notes Cited Reference Count: 55 ref.23WileyHoboken, USA
Author Address Animal and Agriculture Research Centre, Hartpury University, Gloucestershire, UK.vicky.melfi@hartpury.ac.uk
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Anthropology
  5. Anthrozoology
  6. APEC countries
  7. Attitudes
  8. Australasia
  9. Australia
  10. Behavioral research
  11. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  12. Birds
  13. British Isles
  14. Commonwealth of Nations
  15. Countries
  16. Emotions
  17. Europe
  18. Gardens
  19. Human development
  20. Humans
  21. Income
  22. Mammals
  23. Men
  24. New Zealand
  25. Oceania
  26. OECD countries
  27. pet care
  28. Pets and companion animals
  29. Primates
  30. Psychiatry and psychology
  31. sex differences
  32. Social psychology and social anthropology
  33. United Kingdom
  34. vertebrates
  35. Veterinary sciences
  36. Zoo and captive wild animals
  37. Zoology