Promoting positive child-animal relationships and preventing animal cruelty through education

Roxanne Hawkins, Joanne Williams

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


There is currently a lack of evidence-based methods that positively influence the factors underlying
the child-animal relationship. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of an animal welfare
education programme, ‘Prevention through Education’ developed by the Scottish Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA). The workshops, for children aged 6-13 years, were
designed to address children’s knowledge about the welfare needs of animals as well as encouraging
empathy and positive attitudes towards animals.

Key factors including: knowledge about animals, attachment to pets, attitudes towards animals, beliefs
about animal minds (Child-BAM) and attitudes towards animal cruelty, were assessed using a selfcomplete questionnaire administered to 1,217 primary school aged children (51% boys, 49% girls, and 6-13 years old). A pre-test, post-test and delayed post-test method was employed and a test group was
compared to a control group. Children in the test group participated in one of four workshops; each
workshop had a specific focus on either pet animals, farm animals, wild animals or general animal
rescue and welfare.

Using a three-way mixed model ANOVA, results showed that children who participated in the
programme had higher knowledge about animals (F(4,1191)=22.4, p=.000) and the Scottish SPCA
(F(1,1163)=34.74, p=.000), a higher Child-BAM (F(4,1144)=4.58, p=.001), had more positive attitudes
towards animals (F(4,1055)=4.08, p=.003), specifically towards wild (F(4,1128)=3.15, p=.014) and farm animals F(4,1122)=4.64, p=.001), and were less accepting of animal cruelty (F(4,1164)=2.72,
p=.028). The programme had the largest impact on knowledge about animals and knowledge about
the Scottish SPCA with older children scoring the highest. The programme did not have a significant
effect on children’s attachment to pets. Further analysis indicates demographic differences including
age, gender, family affluence and area of residence.

This study provides evidence for the effectiveness of the Scottish SPCA’s ‘Prevention through Education’ programme in positively influencing the factors underlying child-animal relationships, particularly knowledge, attitudes, Child-BAM and decreasing acceptance of animal cruelty. Scientific evaluations such as this one, are invaluable tools for demonstrating the effectiveness of such programmes, and for reviewing and enhancing programmes. Through the evaluation of animal welfare education programmes, significant and sustained improvements can be made that will ultimately positively influence the treatment of animals.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Society for Anthrozoology Annual Conference 2016: Exploring Human-Animal Interactions: A Multidisciplinary Approach from Behavioral and Social Sciences - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 7 Jul 201610 Jul 2016 (List of ISAZ conferences.)


ConferenceInternational Society for Anthrozoology Annual Conference 2016
Abbreviated titleISAZ 2016
Internet address


  • psychology
  • animal welfare
  • education
  • human-animal interactions
  • prevention
  • intervention


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