This research follows on from the project, ‘Promoting a 'Duty of Care' towards animals among young people also funded by DEFRA. While the initial study focussed on young children, in this new project we aim to better understand the perspectives of 13-17 year olds in relation to animals and their welfare. The findings will inform the design of evidence-based education materials to improve attitudes and behaviour.

There are several phases to the project. The first involves secondary analysis of data collected in Scotland, England and Wales in 2010 as part of the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study in order to examine the relationships between pet ownership, attitudes, and lifestyle/health. A new UK-wide online survey of 13-17 year olds will be designed to investigate in more detail adolescents' views of and behaviour towards animals. In-depth interviews will also be carried out to understand adolescents’ perceptions, attitudes, and interactions with animals. A key aim is to find out how animals fit into adolescents’ lives within the broader context of their physical and mental health, lifestyle, and empathy. On the basis of the findings from both DOC projects, in the second phase, we will develop appropriate educational material to enhance a sense of Duty of Care to animals among adolescents. These will be used in an intervention that we will evaluate systematically.

As part of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) the concept of a ‘Duty of Care’ to animals (DOC) has been extended to all vertebrates managed, used and cared for by humans. Children and young people are particularly important target audiences when considering extending a sense of DOC to animals in society since previous research has suggested that experiences early in life can have long-lasting effects on attitudes and behaviour towards animals, and also because young people’s interactions with animals are particularly meaningful.


  • Professor Alistair Lawrence, Scottish Rural University College (Principal Investigator)
  • Dr Melanie Connor, Scottish Rural University College
  • Dr Jo Williams, Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Candace Currie OBE, CAHRU, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Ferran Marsa Sambola, CAHRU, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Janine Muldoon, CAHRU, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews
  • Professor Fiona Brooks, PI HBSC England, University of Hertfordshire
  • Mr Chris Roberts, PI HBSC Wales, Welsh Assembly Government/Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru


January 2012 – December 2015

Funded by:

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

The information on the previous research project is available here.