ACC&D Think Tanks

Ethical Decision-Making in Innovation for Animal Welfare

February 15-17, 2017

In recent years, ACC&D has taken a more active role in advancing promising new tools and technologies by managing and sponsoring two studies evaluating: 1) a contraceptive vaccine called GonaCon in a simulated free-roaming cat colony and 2) an ear tag to identify dogs and cats treated with non-surgical fertility control. In both of these studies, ACC&D encountered ethical quandaries regarding study design, selection of animals, welfare of animals involved, impact of the study on the local community, and more. Ethical questions and considerations arose such as:

  • How does one obtain consent for loosely-owned, free-roaming dogs and cats?
  • Must there be direct benefit to the animals involved in the study, in addition to future animals, for the study to be ethical?
  • What is the threshold for determining that it is more ethical to not intervene?

Upon review, ACC&D found that questions of this type are not comprehensively addressed in current literature, guidelines, and policies. To address this gap, on February 15-17, 2017, ACC&D convened experts from diverse fields to tackle questions surrounding ethical decision-making when trialing innovations in the field on dogs and cats. The Think Tank convened 24 participants, including philosophers, bioethicists, field practitioners, social workers, academics, and veterinarians.


Think Tank participants from left to right: (back row) Carla Forte Maiolino Molento, Kate Atema, Peter Sandøe; (middle row) Andy Sparkes, Sarah Endersby, Michael Barrett, Amy Fischer, Kevin Morris, Apryl Steele, Jesse Winters, Roger Haston, Lisa Moses, Deepashree Balaram, James Serpell, Carly Robbins, Vic Spain, James Yeates; (front row) Valerie Benka, Joyce Briggs, Carmen Espinosa, Monica List, Susan Getty, Phil Tedeschi.

As the first formal gathering on a broad and complex topic, the Think Tank covered wide-ranging territory. The meeting yielded several clear next steps for projects and activities to address ethical decision-making challenges for future ACC&D projects and others experienced in the animal welfare field. For immediate release and use is a compilation of ethical questions and considerations when trialing innovations in a “field” setting. 

The meeting was hosted by the University of Denver’s Institute for Human-Animal Connection in Denver, CO, and was generously funded by The Animal Assistance Foundation, The ASPCA, and International Cat Care. We are grateful to our funders for their support! 

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A special thank you to our Think Tank
host and funders:

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