Who is rehomed and why? Examining the significance of the AT-animal bond

Authors: Tess Skidmore*, University of Southampton
Topics: Animal Geographies
Keywords: ethics, culture of care, bond development, rehoming
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Although many associate laboratory research with animal suffering, and consequently hold negative perceptions of those choosing to work in such environments, many who work in this field do so because of their concern for animals. This often results in the ‘human-research animal bond’ (Bayne, 2002). Beck and Katcher (1996) explain how certain species, such as dogs, rely on facility staff not only for practical needs, but also for companionship and affection. Thus, complete animal objectification is difficult (Arluke, 1990), resulting in them often being afforded pet-like status (Hobson-West, 2007).

Interviews with facility staff found that many define as “welfareists at heart”, and, as part of a ‘culture of care’, surpass ethical legislation to provide a good quality of life for research animals. This can lead to, and is undertaken because of, bond development between staff and animals. This effect is compounded when the animal is considered ‘more sentient’, when there are smaller numbers of the particular species within the facility, and when the animal has been in the facility for a longer time period (such as sentinel animals). The bond results in animals being named, and particular personalities to be discovered and fostered. This effect also had real-life implications; animals were set aside from euthanasia, kept as pets within the laboratory, and potentially rehomed. When permitted, rehoming positively effects staff morale. Thus, through embodied care and consistent animal interaction, both the researcher and the animal are shown to co-construct each other’s identities, and lines between domestic and laboratory animals blur.

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