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Wooden Hut

Definitions and Differentiations:  

Animal Wellness is the dynamic, evolving process toward achieving one’s fullest potential. An individual’s wellness while distinct, resides and is influenced by the wellness of their associated groups. As such, wellness is a comprehensive, multidimensional layered concept that emphasizes lifestyle behaviors that promote optimal states. 

Full potential is defined through a collaborative partnership between the individual and the caregivers directly involved in another’s care.  It needs to be revisited over time, tracked over time to show the larger concept and to account for fluctuations. 

Well-being is the subjective experience of the balance between one’s resources and the challenges they face. (resources – challenges)  

Health – focuses on illness states and one’s relationship to that status. 

Welfare is the group of social efforts aimed at supporting the physical and material needs of those in need.  The physical, material and psychological needs that promote positive affect (Jason Waters, SFZoo correspondence). “Affect as welfare” concept offered by Waters places animals themselves in control of managing their own emotional outcomes. It is based upon Positive affect = welfare. My issue with this concept is that it doesn’t consider negative welfare that doesn’t have an immediate negative affect.  Hence, there are aspects of an individual’s experience that are unaccounted for, unlike the AWI model that can inform the short and long-term decision process for human caregivers. 


Additionally, Wellness resides in a proactive stance that anticipates individual needs vs welfare methods that maintain a more reactive stance based upon observable negative affect that signals a growing/existing/pre-existing challenge or need.


Wellness Applied Framework - when applying wellness programs, methods need to incorporate these 4 features:

1. it is animal-centered care to support her full potential

2. it is culturally and community relevant to those members

3. it is strategically responsive to changing dynamics and expects change

4. it uses evidence-based practices and forms of evaluation/ measurement


Animal Wellness Domains:  Note, each domain resides within a spectrum. Wellness is viewed and measured at each individual domain level, the relationship between domains, as well as a composite of all domains. Each domain has its own ebb and flow; each is dynamically joined in union with all others.


  1.  Body – refers to bodily integrity + autonomy; the way one physically experiences the world around them; the physical integration of the senses.

  2. Economics, Politics & Law – Represents the multilayered rules of conduct and expectations (i.e. from one’s group, humans, etc), one’s access to and barriers faced in attaining resources, the context of the larger multi-species environment everyone lives in, and the human derived system that influence wellness potential and expression The three entwined elements posing the greatest consideration are: 

    1. (a) the inherent power dynamics within the human-animal relationship, 

    2. (b) the influence of human financial resources, and 

    3. (c) the agreed upon code of conduct within an individual’s associated groups that focus upon the aspects of justice, equality, hierarchy, rules, resource opportunities between group members, etc.    Societal rules, codes of conduct that have been agreed upon by a group aka species and maintained over time and passed down to new members.  Different geo groups of same species can have similar/same rules, yet show variation due to its relation with the environment.  

  3.  Mind (Self) – Intellect, Imagination and Thought; how one perceives their world and actions within it. (Note: this may eventually contain the concept of personhood that is outlined in the domain of culture).

  4. Culture/Social - animal networks stem from a We-culture that differ significantly from European I-culture point of view.  Animal culture represents the positive opportunities for engagement with meaningful individuals and one’s group.  Culture is experienced and learned from these opportunities where a sense of meaning for oneself is found and supported by the community. This domain also considers what personhood is that borrows from cultural anthropology (Deriksen, Eriksen, Geertz)

    1. I’m working on a few questions around this topic.  Such as, do animals live between two cultures or more? Their own, humans and Nature? Is Nature a culture itself? Why wouldn’t it be? My challenge to most of the literature revolve around:

      1. definitions of culture in animals are biased towards human meaning and communication

      2. typically framed from a biological point of reference that uses comparisons to humans

      3. our understanding is limited to how we as a human species learns and communicates  thus others may share culture via alternative pathways

      4. maybe animals don’t see a need to build overly complex systems that separate individuals from feeling a part of their own community.  Hence, since we tend to look for I-cultures our assumptions may lack an awareness to identify cultural variety within another.  

  5. Emotions -  affective state of one’s mind-body. Wide variety of types, significance to one and magnitude of the felt experience. The felt experience of one’s perspective, history, desires and needs.

  6. Spiritual – connection to something outside of oneself, yet inherent within one; a sense of Self that includes the self, but also resides within the universe. 

  7. Environment -  the physical setting in which one engages with that has reciprocal influence upon wellness. Settings consider the immediate location, regional, national and global aspects. 

  8. Love -  the experience of deep and meaningful, positive emotions commonly associated with another individual, place or activity.

  9. Play - multiple individual (of 2 or more) engagements that foster fun, joy, freedom of physical activity that are unstructured and lets the animal(s) lead in defining the interaction. 

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