March 3, 2024

Factors Influencing the Development of Human–Animal Relationships at SeaWorld Entertainment Parks


Sabrina Brando, Chris Dold, Vinícius Donisete Lima Rodrigues Goulart, and Todd Robeck


Document: Article

Abstract: While the existence of human–animal relationships dates back thousands of years, the effects of these bonds on animal well-being have only recently been examined in detail. The existing literature demonstrates that factors such as familiar human caregivers and persistent, predictable care may, for example, lower an animal’s fear response and improve overall welfare. The goal of the present study was to analyse how a range of variables, including age, sex, animal species, and previous bonds with a pet could influence the development of human–animal bonds between caregivers and animals at six affiliated zoological facilities. The present study is a survey of 201 animal caregivers focusing on their perception of the bonds shared between themselves and an animal with which they work and any experience with bonds they have with a companion animal at home. All respondents, regardless of the existence of a human–animal bond, also indicated their level of agreement with a series of general statements about human–animal relationships and their effects on animal management and welfare. The present study demonstrates that the type of animal species has a significant effect on the development of bonds between animals and their human caregivers, with a greater percentage of bonds developed between people and other mammalian species, and the smaller percentage of bonds between people and fish or reptiles. Personal identifiers, such as age, sex, or the number of years in the profession, did not have any significant correlation to bond development. In addition, having pets was also not a predictor of caregiver–animal bonds, though previous experiences with animal bonds did indicate a tendency to develop a bond. Overall, surveyed caregivers agreed with positive statements about human–animal relationships and their role in promoting better welfare for animals. Understanding the bonds shared by animal caregivers and the animals for which they are responsible is essential to fostering workplaces that consider the importance of the relationship between humans and animals, and the tangible benefits a positively perceived bond can have for both.

Key Words: human–animal bonds, human–animal interactions, animal welfare, animal care, zoos, aquariums, caregivers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.49.3.2023.294

Page Numbers: 294-307


Brando et al. is Open Access: Click here for PDF

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