The position of ZAA is that all zoos and aquariums have a responsibility to ensure a high standard of animal welfare for all animals in their care. Conservation, education, research and recreational goals of zoological organisations must be underpinned by positive animal welfare.
The Accreditation Program is an industry-specific approach to assessing animal welfare states for zoos and aquariums. The purpose of the Accreditation Program is to validate and highlight an organisation’s achievements in promoting positive animal welfare outcomes. The positive animal welfare focus of the Accreditation Program is a first in the zoo industry.
The principles behind the Accreditation Program are based on the Association’s Animal Welfare Position Statement (AWPS). The Association launched the AWPS in 2013 with the support of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy to outline future directions for the welfare of animals in Australia and New Zealand. The AWPS outlines how ‘Positive Welfare’ can be achieved when zoos and aquariums not only focus on minimising negative experiences but also on promoting positive experiences for the animals in their care. (To see more on the Animal Welfare Position Statement, please visit https://www.zooaquarium.org.au/index.php/press-releases/position-statements/.
The Accreditation Program is designed to complement, but not duplicate, existing industry welfare regulations and standards. As such, compliance with relevant minimum regulatory standards is considered a prerequisite for ZAA Accreditation. However, in striving to achieve positive animal welfare outcomes, zoos and aquariums will have the capacity to address minimum regulatory standards and expectations at the same time, and provide added assurance to the regulatory authorities and the community that these are being met.
The Accreditation Program brings many benefits to the industry and community. This program is industry specific, meaning that the Association can have confidence in the levels of welfare provided for the animals in all member institutions. The Accreditation Program will also provide a framework for NGOs and government within Australia and New Zealand to understand positive welfare states in zoos and aquariums. For visitors and the wider community, the program provides additional assurance that the animals housed in a ZAA accredited facility receive the best possible welfare, and not just simply meet legal minimum requirements.
Ongoing accreditation will ensure that all members provide the best animal welfare. The Accreditation Program will continuously develop as animal welfare knowledge increases and new assessment tools developed. Accreditation is a requirement for ZAA membership, and all members must maintain accreditation on a three-year cycle.
How does the Accreditation Program function?
Contemporary understanding of animal welfare acknowledges that animals are capable of experiencing both negative and positive affective states. While industry regulation focuses heavily on minimising negative states, there is no program that specifically recognises efforts in promoting positive states, and this is where the Accreditation Program is established.
The Accreditation Program is based on a contemporary framework for understanding animal welfare and examines animal welfare in reference to the Five Welfare Domains. The benefit of such a framework is that it functions as a useful tool to which member organisations can identify practical and industry relevant ways to improve and maximise positive animal welfare outcomes.
The Five Welfare Domains and examples of related positive states are:
Nutrition: e.g. appropriate consumption of nutritious foods is a pleasurable experience.
Environmental: e.g. benign conditions offer adaptive choices and variety.
Health: e.g. physically sound (uninjured, disease-free) animals enjoy good health.
Behaviour: e.g. environment-focused and inter-animal activities are satisfying and engaging.
Mental or Affective State: e.g. animals experience comfort, pleasure, interest, and confidence.
The four physical domains (nutrition, behaviour, environment, physical health) are assessed with the aim of ensuring that we, as an Association, can be proud of the positive outcomes for our animals and give a level of assurance to all members of the quality of care at any member association.
All ZAA members will undergo Accreditation every three years. During each cycle, every member will be assessed on the same standards. As new species-specific welfare assessment tools are developed, these will be distributed to all relevant members and be used for assessment in the following three year cycle of Accreditation. The Accreditation Program is a supported process, and members will be given briefing materials ahead of site visits and the assessment process.
If you wish to understand the Accreditation Program further, please phone the ZAA office on 61-2-9978 4797.