Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program at UCLA Law

Funded Projects

Barriers and Facilitators to Diffusing No/Low-Cost Pet Sterilization in Underserved Neighborhoods


Arnold ArlukeArnold Arluke, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University

Pet owners living in or near poverty are sometimes reluctant to use free or low-cost veterinary services, such as sterilization. This behavior flies in the face of popular thinking, which argues that lack of money is the primary barrier to using veterinary services. Without knowing more about the nature of pet keeping in economically underserved communities, we cannot understand the barriers that prevent or impede pet owners from using these services. Nor can we redesign shelter programs that offer reduced or free veterinary services to reach more pet owners in need. This research project consists of an ethnographic study of pet owners living in poverty in West Charlotte, North Carolina, who are offered free sterilization, pet food, vaccinations, basic examinations, and treatments for problems like worms or fleas. The study also includes pet owners living near poverty who are offered these services at very low cost. Over 100 West Charlotte pet owners, shelter workers, and veterinarians are included in this ethnographic study, which seeks to understand what prevents some people from using these services and what helps to overcome these barriers.

Wildlife Consumption: The Roles of Legalization and Commodification


Jessica Bell RizzoloJessica Bell Rizzolo, Michigan State University | MSU, Ph.D. student, Sociology, Animal Studies, Environmental Science & Policy, and Conservation Criminology

The illegal wildlife trade is one of the world's largest criminal enterprises and threatens numerous species with extinction. This project addresses, through empirical survey research, two ongoing debates about the illegal wildlife trade. First, there is the question of how the legalization of wildlife products affects demand for wildlife products. Second, there is the issue of whether wildlife farming (raising endangered species in captivity for consumption) presents a conservation solution or only serves to increase demand for wildlife products. However, there is little empirical evidence on how legalization and commodification of wildlife influence wildlife consumption. This project uses an experimental vignette survey of 1,000 respondents in Mainland China to analyze how the variables of legalization and commodification alter the acceptability of, and perceived deterrents to, wildlife consumption. Respondents are provided with vignettes (short paragraphs of text) about four endangered species widely consumed in China: tigers, bears, snakes, and turtles. For each animal, the vignettes are designed to compare consumption across three dimensions: legalization, farming status, and type of use (medicinal versus non-medicinal use). Statistical modeling is then used to analyze how these variables impact a) the acceptability of wildlife consumption and b) perceptions of deterrents to wildlife consumption such as social disapproval, guilt, and legal punishment. Policymakers will be able to use the results of this work to understand how altering the legal context (e.g. legalizing or banning a wildlife product) impacts demand for wildlife products.

The Paradox of Animal Empathy: A Motivational Approach to Fostering Empathy for Animal Suffering


Daryl CameronDaryl Cameron, Assistant Professor, Director, Empathy and Moral Psychology Lab, Pennsylvania State University

Rob ChilesRob Chiles, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education and the Department of Food Science and a research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University

Janet SwimJanet Swim, Professor, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

Animal suffering appears to present a paradox for our prosocial emotions. On the one hand, the acute pain of identifiable animals can be a potent elicitor of empathy and compassion. For example, Cecil the lion and Harambe the gorilla both triggered large amounts of empathic outrage after they were killed by humans. On the other hand, people can be insensitive to the suffering of animals, especially when animal suffering is in conflict with human's perceived needs (e.g., to eat meat). The current project aims to resolve this paradox by examining competing motivational factors, with empirical predictions derived from theories of motivated empathy. Those theories suggest that empathy varies as people balance competing costs and benefits of empathy.

Relationship Between Occupational and Environmental Exposures to Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Fertilizer and Their Presence in the Human Resistome in Farm Workers in California


Cristina Echeverria-PalenciaCristina Echeverria-Palencia, Ph.D., UCLA Department of Environmental Engineering

The use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed is problematic for many reasons. This study seeks to describe routes of exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in landscape and farm workers. Landscape and farm workers are uniquely exposed to both ARB and ARGs through fertilizers. Through quantifying in commonly purchased fertilizers and environments local to workers, the study can assess whether and how occupational and environmental exposures are associated with resistome patterns. This effect can then be taken into account when considering the importance of reducing animal exposure to antibiotics because of its potential for negative effects on the environment and on the workers exposed to waste products of animals exposed to antibiotics.

Understanding Consumer Literacy about 'Milk'


Silke FeltzSilke Feltz, Ph.D. Candidate, Michigan Technological University

Adam FeltzAdam Feltz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Applied Ethics, Michigan Technological University

Are people product literate enough to reliably distinguish plant-based 'milk' products from animal-based 'milk' products? Currently, there are several policy initiatives to enact or enforce a ban on using 'milk' terms (e.g., milk, cheese, whey, cream) to describe plant-based products. The main justification for the prohibition is that using 'milk' terms to describe plant-based products would cause too much confusion in consumers. However, there is no empirical evidence that people are confused or regarding the extent of that confusion. This research project addresses this lack of empirical evidence by developing ways to assess consumers' "milk" product literacy.

Systematic Review of Fish Research: Neglected Areas and Alternative Ways Forward


Isabel Fife-CookIsabel Fife-Cook, Masters student, Animal Studies, NYU

Over the past 30 years, a deeper exploration of fish cognition and emotion coupled with humanity's growing dependence on aquaculture have spawned a significant upsurge in fish welfare research. However, despite a growing concern for fish wellbeing, emerging trends highlighting problematic experimental methodology suggest fish welfare research may be causing fish more harm than good. Our project aims to address this issue by exploring biases and exposing gaps in fish welfare research by performing a systematic literature review and analysis of over 1,000 publications pertaining to fish welfare. A preliminary analysis reveals significant trends in research areas and methodology, including a strong tendency towards sole reliance on biological health as an indication of welfare and lack of psychological and behavioral welfare analysis. These findings suggest that the existing research on fish welfare fails to adequately address fish wellbeing by ignoring fundamentally important aspects of animal welfare such as psychological state and expression of natural behaviors while simultaneously causing harm and suffering to the experimental subjects. In exposing the strong bias towards harmful, biologically-driven welfare research, we hope to encourage policy-makers to turn towards existing research in other fields of study such as cognitive ethology and behavioral ecology when making decisions pertaining to fish welfare standards.

Does the Path Model of Blame apply to animals?


Geoffrey GoodwinGeoffrey P. Goodwin, Associate Professor, Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

Adam BenforadoAdam Benforado, Professor of Law, Drexel University

Why do humans blame and punish animals for harms humans experience in their interactions with some animals. In prior work, Goodwiin and Benforado have shown that one of the underlying motivations is retribution—some people feel that animals fundamentally deserve punishment when they are associated with harm to humans (Goodwin & Benforado, 2015). The present research project investigates two key drivers of such retributive attitudes: intentionality and reasons for acting. The project includes four studies in which relevant factors are manipulated: whether an animal "offender" attacks and kills a human intentionally or accidentally (Experiment 1), and the perceived culpability of an animal's reasons for intentionally attacking a human (Experiments 2-4). The initial hypothesis for this research is that participants' judgments of blame and punishment will be elevated when animals attack seemingly intentionally, and when they do so for seemingly culpable reasons. Both features derive from the recently developed Path Model of Blame, which specifies the cognitive processes underlying judgments of blame for human offenders. Accordingly, this research has the potential to confirm for the first time that people punish animals in a way that is analogous to the way they punish humans. This can be expected to shed important light on widespread societal practices surrounding the killing of "dangerous" animals.

The Effects of Pro-Animal Rights Laws and Existential Threat on Attitudes toward Animals


Jeff GreenbergJeff Greenberg, Professor, Social Psychology, The University of Arizona

Uri LifshinUri Lifshin, Visiting Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel

The goal of this research is to test the potential effect that new pro animal-welfare laws may have on human attitudes towards animals. We hypothesize that establishment of pro-animal-rights laws may motivate people to adopt more pro-animal rights thinking as a way to live up to cultural standards and gain psychological protection. By doing so, it may also moderate the human tendency to have negative attitudes towards animals and act aggressively towards them as a way to gain psychological protection from death as shown in previous research (Lifshin, Greenberg Sullivan, & Zestcott, 2017; for a review see: Marino & Mountain, 2015). Building on previous research the framework of terror management theory (for review see: Greenberg, Vail, & Pyszczynski, 2014; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2015), we will conduct two experiments to test if introducing new legislation to ban non-medical research on animals would increase positive attitudes towards animals and reduce the tendency to respond to psychological threat (reminders of death) with support for aggression against animals. This research may help demonstrate the overall positive effects that new pro-animal-rights laws may have on people's attitudes towards animal rights. It may also advance the scientific understanding of the factors that may help reduce negative attitudes and behaviors towards animals. By doing so, the current research may contribute to developing better empirical bases from which to understand and pursue animal law reform.

Using System Justification Theory to Improve Animal Welfare in Society


John  JostJohn T. Jost, Ph.D., Co-Director, Center for Social and Political Behavior, Professor of Psychology and Politics, New York University

Mao MogamiMao Mogami, Ph.D. student, Social Psychology, New York University

Mark HoffarthMark Hoffarth, Postdoctoral Researcher, New York University

Why do so many people tolerate the abhorrent treatment of animals, as in cases of factory farming and animal testing? This research identifies a key social psychological mechanism that may help to explain indifference to animal cruelty, namely, system justification: the motivation to defend, bolster, and justify aspects of the societal status quo.

This research involves a series of quantitative studies that will illuminate the social, cognitive, and motivational underpinnings of animal rights attitudes and provide a sound empirical basis for designing effective intervention campaigns to improve animal welfare. The project begins with the development of a new scale to measure contemporary attitudes pertaining to current controversies over animal rights. Next, the project investigators examine how "system justification motivation" undermines the promotion of animal rights by perpetuating negative attitudes toward animals, encouraging biased information processing of scientific information, and inhibiting collective action designed to stop the unjust treatment of animals.

Pets, Emotional Support Animals, and Service Animals on Campus: Policies & Implications


Beth LanningBeth Lanning, Baylor University, Ph.D., MCHES. Associate Chair, Department of Public Health, Director Public Health Undergraduate Program, Associate Professor 2018

Megan PattersonMegan Patterson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University

Attending a college or university can be a stressful event for many students. Students may experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, or overall poor mental health. Animals can provide a source of both physical and psychological support for students making them a common fixture on college campuses as well as in student housing and apartments.

While most animals found on college campuses are pets, an increasing number are designated as emotional support animals (ESAs) or service animals, which may qualify the animal and student for additional accommodations. Colleges and universities are already required to provide accommodations in the classroom and student housing for students who possess a service animal, but the legal requirements for an emotional support animal are less clear. Contrary to service animals, which undergo specific training and certification processes, ESAs serve to relieve mental and emotional distress, and do not require specific training. Students requesting accommodations for an ESA on campus must provide documentation from a health care provider to justify their accommodation; however, protocols and policies concerning the student and/or the animal tend to vary from institution to institution. Further, most policies apply to the safety of the individual and to other students: they may not include protocols to ensure the health and safety of the animal. It is important to understand the environment in which students' pets, ESAs, or service animals live and rules and regulations in place to protect both the individual and to ensure the safety of the animal. Therefore, we aim to: 1) assess the number of students who report having a ESA, service animal, or pet on campus, in student housing, or housing near campus, 2) assess the care and relationship of the student with the ESA, service animal, or pet, and 3) assess current university policies regarding ESA, service animals, and pets on campus and in student housing.

The relationship between eviction and companion animal relinquishment in reducing housing loss in Baltimore City, Maryland.


Paul LockePaul Locke, Dr.PH, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

William BellamyWilliam Bellamy, graduate student Johns Hopkins Public Health

Companion animals are deeply woven into the fabric of American family life. Approximately 70% of American households own a companion animal, which are increasingly viewed as family members. Among families facing eviction from their homes, finding a place for their pets is of paramount importance. Based on our preliminary research, we have found that families about to lose their homes tend to surrender their companion animals to a shelter so that the animal can be cared for and, if necessary, rehomed. In Baltimore, Maryland the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), the city's primary open-access animal shelter, is a principal point for pet relinquishment. Because families come to BARCS to surrender their pets before they are evicted, we believe that BARCS can help identify individuals in need of legal and social services to keep them – and their companion animals – in their homes. Our project will collect and obtain court records of eviction in Baltimore. We will use this data to match evictions to relinquishments over the 10 year period (2009 to 2018) for which we have already collected, and analyzed data. Our current dataset contains information about approximately 24,000 relinquishments at BARCS, including information about the reasons for relinquishment as reported by the individuals relinquishing the animals.

We believe that this analysis will have yield at least two important insights. First, it will result in a better understanding about the dynamics and timing of relinquishment and eviction. Second, because our current database lists self-reported reasons for relinquishment we believe that there could be misreporting because families are often embarrassed about eviction and housing loss. This analysis will shed light on the accuracy of self-reporting, and (potentially) on the extent and nature of misreporting.

What Happens to Grizzly Bear Poaching when Management Policies Change?


Naomi LouchouarnNaomi Louchouarn, University of Wisconsin Madison, MESM (Ph.D. candidate), Carnivore Coexistence Lab

Illegal killing, or poaching, is one of the greatest threats to large carnivore restoration in the USA and beyond. Carnivore conservation policies in the US have historically assumed that poaching is a direct response to conflict with large predators and have therefore attempted to indirectly reduce poaching by reducing conflict. However, conflict reduction techniques have generally been focused on lethal control of large carnivores, such as grizzly bears, with limited empirical evidence for their success. Recent research using survival analyses of radio-collared wolves has found that periods of liberalized killing (e.g., government culling programs or public hunts) were associated with higher incidence of radio-collared wolf disappearance and unexplained mortalities. These statistical methods have now been used on multiple populations of wolves, but should be tested on other large carnivores, such as grizzlies. My proposed research will contribute to the small but growing body of literature on the effects of management policies on poaching risks of large carnivores by analyzing government data on two populations of grizzlies in the Western US. I will use survival analysis techniques to examine whether risk of poaching increases or decreases based on changes in grizzly management policies from 2007 to 2018.

Governing Human-Animal Interactions for Older Adults: An Analysis of Nursing Home Policies and their Characteristics


Natalie PitheckoffNatalie Pitheckoff, gerontology PhD candidate, MS, MGS, University of Massachusetts Boston

Human-animal interactions (HAI) can transform nursing homes into more home-like and person-centered environments, while improving nursing home residents' quality of life and well-being. Despite the increased popularity and support of HAI, little is known about the policies and practices governing the relationship between older adults and animals in nursing homes. Guided by the diffusion of innovation theory and existing literature, this proposed study seeks to address five main aims. These include (1) understanding the perspectives of national and state-level organizations on HAI, including animal therapy groups and nursing home associations; (2) surveying nursing homes in New York (NY) on their policies and procedures on HAI; (3) estimating the prevalence of facilities providing HAI in NY; (4) exploring nursing home characteristics that may predict the likelihood of having HAI; and (5) investigating staffs' attitudes and views on the therapeutic use of animals in the selected nursing homes. To address these aims, a mixed-methods approached will be utilized. In phase one, qualitative key informant interviews will be conducted with pertinent staff from national and state-level nursing home associations and animal therapy organizations. The data collected in phase one will inform the creation of the questionnaire for phase two, the web-based survey. In phase three, using results from the survey on HAI, logistic regression models will be performed to estimate the association of facility-level characteristics on the likelihood of adopting HAI. In phase four, qualitative interviews with staff will be collected first-hand by visiting four selected NY nursing homes. This proposed study will have implications for both policy and practice.



David RandDavid Rand, Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics & Management, Yale University; Human Cooperation Lab; The Applied Cooperation Team

Molly CrossmanMolly Crossman, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Yale University, Innovative Interactions Lab

Gordon Kraft-ToddGordon Kraft-Todd, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Yale University, Human Cooperation Lab; The Applied Cooperation Team

Purebred dogs are favorites among pet owners and advertisers due to their distinctive appearance honed through hundreds of years of selective breeding. Yet these breeding practices have resulted in severe health defects among certain breeds, especially in short-headed dogs such as bulldogs and pugs. Despite the serious threat that these defects can pose to animal welfare and the calls for change in breeding practices from numerous professional organizations, the popularity of afflicted breeds continues to rise. Changing attitudes towards such selective breeding is a challenge because of the personal and commercial gains owners and advertisers, respectively, gain from supporting these practices. This research aims to understand of how these attitudes might be changed by leveraging a mechanism of cultural learning: the principle that "actions speak louder than words." The research findings can inform the development of more effective interventions, policies, and laws that promote more humane breeding practices and reduce the prevalence of severe hereditary problems in dogs.

An Evaluation of the Impact of Desmond's Law - Do Court Advocates Impact the Prosecution and Outcomes of Animal Cruelty Cases?


Jessica RubinJessica Rubin, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Legal Practice Program, UConn School of Law

Does a legal advocate impact prosecution and outcomes of criminal animal cruelty cases? In 2016, Connecticut enacted Desmond's Law, the first law to allow courts to appoint advocates in cruelty cases involving dogs and cats. The law is significant because it allows advocates to represent the interests of justice, including the interests of animals. The project aims to assess the law's impact.

We will collect and analyze data on cruelty cases in Connecticut, comparing outcomes of cases with and without advocates, both before and after the enactment of Desmond's Law. The data, and conclusions drawn from it, can inform other states as they consider similar legislation.

Additionally, the project will gather qualitative data to assess perceptions of the law by judges, court personnel, prosecutors, defense lawyers and advocates. This data can inform improvements in Desmond's Law and its implementation.

Animal Trials and Tribulations: Activism, Legality, and Animal Rights in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico


Iván Sandoval-CervantesIván Sandoval-Cervantes, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso

This project examines the animal rights movement in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, by asking: How are animal rights constructed, challenged, and interpreted in a city with high rates of violence? Located in northern Mexico, across from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez was once "the most dangerous city in the world" (2008-2012). In recent years, violence in Ciudad Juárez has fluctuated but it has not ceased. Some popular and academic outlets have focused on the causes and consequences of violence, and how they relate to gender, drug trafficking, and neoliberalism. Other scholars have studied how violence and the violation of human rights have produced social protests, and ongoing criticisms of the legal system. These studies have shown how different types of violence overlap, the faulty application of the law, and the potential of social mobilizations. Missing from these discussions, is consideration of the emerging animal rights movement, which has grown throughout Mexico, including in Ciudad Juárez, and which addresses violence against non-human animals both through legal channels and through public forums. Understanding the ways in which animal rights are conceptualized in the courtroom and in everyday life can illustrate the relationship between animals, humans, and violence in Ciudad Juárez.

Correlating policies and human-caused mortality in an endangered carnivore species


Francisco Santiago-ÁvilaFrancisco J. Santiago-Ávila, Ph.D. Candidate, Carnivore Coexistence Lab, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Recent peer-reviewed literature provides empirical evidence that poaching is the primary cause of death in many carnivore populations worldwide. However, given its illegal nature, poaching proves extremely difficult to detect, measure, and prevent. This often results in its underestimation when evaluating policy alternatives. Although the scholarly literature has focused on providing reliable estimates of poaching, the question of what policy conditions (e.g., liberalizing killing by the public or government agents) may mediate poaching risk for individual animals remains largely unaddressed. Exploring this relationship is critical for developing policies that effectively target poaching or rescinding those that may exacerbate it, which could potentially allow for higher population viability and improved coexistence of carnivores and people. This research project will address these gaps in knowledge through an analysis of government data on radio-collared wolves for three populations classified as endangered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service: Wisconsin gray wolves, Mexican gray wolves and red wolves. The principal investigators will use statistical techniques, including survival analyses, to evaluate if wolves face a significantly higher or lower risk of poaching, given on-the-ground policy changes. This research is potentially relevant to other controversial large carnivore populations, e.g., grizzly bears, experiencing high human-caused mortality and human-wildlife conflict.

More Information

Contact Information

Taimie Bryant
Director, Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program


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