8 November 2019

New Centre for Research into Welfare Problems in Companion Animals

Animal welfare

Today, the future Head of the new Centre, Professor Peter Sandøe, will receive a grant of DKK 1 million from ‘Skibsreder Per Henriksen, R. and Hustrus Fond’ at an award ceremony at ‘Det Kgl. Vajsenhus’ (the Royal Orphanage). The grant will form the basis for the establishment and the first year of operation of a new Danish Research Centre for Companion Animal Science.

Extreme breeding, obesity or behavioural issues. Welfare problems also affect companion animals, and this may have major consequences for the animals and their owners. Now, a new centre will research the extent of the problems and how they can be addressed.

The Centre will be placed in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and will be operated in collaboration with two other departments at the University of Copenhagen and a department at Aarhus University. This will unite Danish expertise within welfare research concerning dogs, cats and horses.

‘Although we are dealing with animals which we typically perceive as family members, these animals still face a lot of challenges. In most cases, the people who have companion animals love their animals very much, but as you know, love can make you blind. Therefore, there is a risk that the people in question will accidentally project their own needs and expectations onto the animals to the detriment of both the welfare of the animals and the relationship between owners and animals’, says Professor Peter Sandøe.

As examples of welfare problems that are affecting the companion animals, Peter Sandøe mentions extreme breeding, for example of dogs with flat noses who cannot breathe; obesity, which is a widespread problem in all three animal groups; and behavioural issues, which are initially a problem for the owners, but often end up hurting the animals in the form of poor relationships with the owners and, in extreme cases, relocation or euthanasia.

The Centre's core consists of seven professors and associate professors who, based on a number of relevant disciplines, including behavioural research, companion animal medicine, epidemiology, genetics and sociology will help shed light on the extent and causes of the problems and propose ways to prevent or reduce them. Much of the practical work in the Centre will be done by veterinary, companion animal and biology students in the form of special projects, where the Centre's researchers will participate as supervisors.

A Lift to an Important Research Area for the Benefit of Students, Owners and their Animals

According to Head of Department Birgit Nørrung, it is a unique quality of the new Centre that it will give an important research area a lift, at the same time strengthening the teaching of future veterinarians and other graduates from the University.

’Among our students and the students at other universities there is great interest in companion animals which the new Centre will allow us to accommodate’, says Birgit Nørrung.

The researchers believe that the surrounding community may take a great interest in the Centre's work, and Peter Sandøe emphasises that an important obligation for the Centre will be to report research results to Danish media and journals and disseminate the results via the social media.

The Danish Research Centre for Companion Animal Science will officially open on 2 January 2020.   

Professor Peter Sandøe, mail: pes@sund.ku.dk, phone + 45 21 49 72 92