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Ethical Decision-Making in Innovation for Animal Welfare

An ACC&D Flagship Initiative

ACC&D has created a new resource to help those working in animal welfare navigate ethical dilemmas inherent in this work, whether research studies or projects like rabies vaccination or community spay-neuter initiatives.

Shelter catIn recent years, ACC&D has taken a more active role in advancing promising new tools and technologies to improve the welfare of cats and dogs. The experience of trialing novel interventions—such as an ear marker to identify cats and dogs who have been sterilized without surgery, or vaccinated as part of a rabies vaccination campaign—led ACC&D to navigate ethical dilemmas in the areas of study design, selection of animals, welfare of animals involved, impact of the study on the local community, and more.

Experts agree that too few resources exist to aid this type of decision-making. Sure, there’s work on research ethics in laboratory animals and vulnerable human populations, as well as in wildlife. But these are challenging to translate into working with owned or community animals in a field setting.

In response, ACC&D held a Think Tank on “Ethical Decision-Making in Innovation for Animal Welfare” to address these challenging questions and need for new resources. At the urging of Think Tank attendees, ACC&D worked with a number of experts to create a comprehensive publication designed for animal welfare field practitioners, researchers, veterinarians, grant-makers, and more. The result is Ethical decision-making: practical guidance & toolkits on ethical decision-making and considerations for field projects targeting dogs and cats.

This guidance document aims to provide practical guidance that you can use as you design, implement, and review your programs or projects. It discusses different ethical principles and how they may shape peoples’ ethical views toward animals, the process of ethical review, and key ethical considerations when designing an intervention. Case studies showcase successful programs, as well as those that have faced challenges.

Find out more about this project and download the publication here.

Guatemala dog and ownerA related project to come out of the Think Tank was Moral distress: navigating everyday dilemmas in animal sheltering and welfare, a workshop to enhance ethical literacy in animal welfare. This workshop was created on the premise that organizations and staff in the animal welfare field, and particularly animal shelters, regularly face ethical dilemmas yet often do not have the tools to aid communication on the topic. The workshop, patterned after resources in the human nursing field, aimed to provide staff and volunteers with tools to make better decisions and work more productively together. The Workshop was piloted in December 2017 with facilitators Lisa Moses, DVM (MSPCA-Angell Pain and Palliative Care Service; Bioethicist with appointments at Harvard Medical School and Yale University) and Jesse Winters (former Senior Director, Shelter Outreach, ASPCA; former ACC&D Board of Directors). While judged a successful start, our team did not have the ability to follow up on this pilot at this time.

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Thank you to our Think Tank and project sponsors!



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