The aim of this project is to assess how a duty of care towards animals might be effectively promoted to children and young people in the UK, based on evidence relating to:

  1. The development of children's understanding of, relationships with, and attitudes towards, animals
  2. Approaches to facilitate positive behaviour towards animals in children and young people

As part of the Animal Welfare Act (2006), the concept of a 'duty of care' (DOC) is used to refer to the legal obligation of anyone responsible for an animal to take reasonable steps to ensure that the animal’s needs are met. Accordingly, they need to look after the animal’s welfare, as well as ensure that it does not suffer.

While it makes sense to educate and instil positive values early on, we believe this is important not just for animal welfare but human wellbeing too. Qualitative research suggests that animals play a significant role in children and young people’s lives; a role that adults may even underestimate. Yet, the ways in which children’s experience, knowledge and perceptions of their relationships with animals translate into different ways of caring for them is not well understood. Similarly, the benefits of such interactions for children and young people are not entirely clear.

The project aims to develop this understanding in order to ascertain the types of intervention that will have the most impact, leading to improvements in animal welfare and enhanced health and well-being in young people.


Scottish Agricultural College SAC
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Defra