Members of Animal Welfare and Behavior Club at their Nov. 14, 2019 visit to Eat, Purr, Love Cat Cafe to learn about Columbus Humane. Credit: Courtesy of Brietta Latham

Whether it’s dogs and cats or chickens and bumblebees, the Animal Welfare and Behavior Club has their back.

Since their start in 2014, members of the Animal Welfare and Behavior Club have been dedicated to educating and promoting animal welfare through presentations, tours and educational trips, according to the club’s constitution.

“Ultimately, welfare is how an animal copes with their environment. We want to make sure that when we’re using them in these different contexts, that they are OK with that environment, their needs are being met, and it’s more than just their needs are being met, but that they’re not suffering,” Maddie Pinkerton, a third-year in animal sciences and the club’s secretary, said.

This semester, the club has partnered with the North American Rescue Collective, a dog rescue group that combats animal abuse and works with Midwest shelters to place the dogs in new homes, Nicole Seilhamer, a fourth-year in microbiology and the club’s president, said.

“Enrichment is a big part of animal behavior, and therefore improving their welfare, so I think we might try to work that into our partnership and helping introduce new enrichment ideas for their shelters,” Pinkerton said.

While the club is devoted to the well-being of animals, Pinkerton said it is not an animal rights club; the group welcomes vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

“Our club is based off the fact that we might use animals for our own personal use, but ultimately, we want to ensure that the utmost welfare is maintained,” Pinkerton said. “I think it’s oftentimes confused with animal rights, and so that’s a big part of our mission is to differentiate animal welfare from animal rights.”

A key component that sets animal welfare apart from animal rights is its measurability, Brietta Latham, a third-year in animal sciences and the club’s treasurer, said. She said the club hosts regular welfare audits, which allow club members to practice collecting data on how Ohio State’s animal facilities maintain animal welfare.

“You go through the records at the facility, their different supplies and operating procedures, check the animal pens and the animals and you’re really evaluating how the facility maintains its animal welfare,” Latham said.

Each year, Pinkerton said the club invites a panel of guest speakers to debate a controversial topic within the animal welfare industry. 

“We just try to pick a controversial topic that’s affecting the animal industry and just really invite all viewpoints so we can have a well-rounded discussion and make ourselves more educated on what’s impacting our industry,” Pinkerton said.

This year’s panel is titled “Best in Show,” which Latham said will feature a discussion about the livestock show industry. She said the panel will include four perspectives – welfare, veterinarian, a livestock judge and 4-H, a youth development organization.

Latham said that in addition to its major events and activities, the club hosts a guest speaker at every meeting. The speakers, who range from Ohio State and international professors to community professionals, talk to club members about animal welfare issues in their respective industries. She said past topics have included trophy hunting, new farming methods and food labeling.

The Animal Welfare and Behavior Club meets at 6 p.m. every other Monday at Hitchcock Hall in Room 30. “Best in Show” will be held at 6 p.m. March 18 in the Agricultural Administration Building. Admission is free for all.