Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The science on suffering: Husbandry and close confinement (7)

Posted: 17 May 2006

3.4 Domesticated Species

Domestic animals such as budgerigars, cats, dogs and horses are kept in circuses. Although there are few scientific studies applicable to the circus situation these animals are subject to many of the same welfare problems as the exotic species. Indicators of poor welfare may be less obvious in these domesticated animals than in captive wild animals, but there is evidence to show that they do suffer as a result of poor husbandry or confinement situations.

  • Dogs have an inherent desire for social contact and are not suited to being confined alone in cages or kennels. Studies have shown that housing dogs alone results in boredom, under-stimulation and the development of behaviour problems. Both visual and tactile contact with other dogs is shown to improve a dog’s psychological well-being and alter negative behaviour patterns (Wells & Hepper, 1998).
  • Both domestic horses and captive exotic equids, such as zebra and Przewalski horses are known to show a variety of stereotypic behaviours when stabled or confined, including, crib-biting, wind-sucking, wood-chewing, weaving, pawing, door and box kicking, self-biting and head tossing (McGreevy, 2004).
  • Domestic cats may show increased hiding behaviours as a response to stimuli or changes in their environment and to avoid interactions with other cats or people. They are more likely to respond to poor environmental conditions by becoming inactive and by inhibiting normal behaviours such as self-maintenance (feeding, grooming and elimination), exploration or play, than by actively showing abnormal behaviour (Rochlitz, 1999).

“…, neither early training nor genetic selection can push the individual beyond its biological potential and a profound lack of stimulation is something to which no vertebrate animal is likely to be able to adapt” (Broom & Johnson, 1993).


Horse & pony husbandry.

Case Study: Great British Circus.
Observations 26, 27 and 29 March 2006.

2 horses, 2 ponies.

Housing: Individual approx. 2.5 metres x 2.5 metres stall inside a tent (the animals were not tethered in their stalls).


No exercise enclosure provided.

During the period of observation the animals were not walked or exercised apart from their brief spell in the ring.

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