Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program at UCLA Law

2017 Funded Projects

Barriers and Facilitators to Diffusing No/Low-Cost Pet Sterilization in Underserved Neighborhoods

Arnold ArlukeArnold Arluke, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University

Pet owners living in or near poverty are sometimes reluctant to use free or low-cost veterinary services, such as sterilization. This behavior flies in the face of popular thinking, which argues that lack of money is the primary barrier to using veterinary services. Without knowing more about the nature of pet keeping in economically underserved communities, we cannot understand the barriers that prevent or impede pet owners from using these services. Nor can we redesign shelter programs that offer reduced or free veterinary services to reach more pet owners in need. This research project consists of an ethnographic study of pet owners living in poverty in West Charlotte, North Carolina, who are offered free sterilization, pet food, vaccinations, basic examinations, and treatments for problems like worms or fleas. The study also includes pet owners living near poverty who are offered these services at very low cost. Over 100 West Charlotte pet owners, shelter workers, and veterinarians are included in this ethnographic study, which seeks to understand what prevents some people from using these services and what helps to overcome these barriers.

The Paradox of Animal Empathy: A Motivational Approach to Fostering Empathy for Animal Suffering

Daryl CameronDaryl Cameron, Assistant Professor, Director, Empathy and Moral Psychology Lab, Pennsylvania State University

Rob ChilesRob Chiles, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education and the Department of Food Science and a research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University

Janet SwimJanet Swim, Professor, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

Animal suffering appears to present a paradox for our prosocial emotions. On the one hand, the acute pain of identifiable animals can be a potent elicitor of empathy and compassion. For example, Cecil the lion and Harambe the gorilla both triggered large amounts of empathic outrage after they were killed by humans. On the other hand, people can be insensitive to the suffering of animals, especially when animal suffering is in conflict with human’s perceived needs (e.g., to eat meat). The current project aims to resolve this paradox by examining competing motivational factors, with empirical predictions derived from theories of motivated empathy. Those theories suggest that empathy varies as people balance competing costs and benefits of empathy.

Relationship Between Occupational and Environmental Exposures to Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Fertilizer and Their Presence in the Human Resistome in Farm Workers in California

Cristina Echeverria-PalenciaCristina Echeverria-Palencia, Ph.D. student, UCLA

The use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed is problematic for many reasons. This study seeks to describe routes of exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in landscape and farm workers. Landscape and farm workers are uniquely exposed to both ARB and ARGs through fertilizers. Through quantifying in commonly purchased fertilizers and environments local to workers, the study can assess whether and how occupational and environmental exposures are associated with resistome patterns. This effect can then be taken into account when considering the importance of reducing animal exposure to antibiotics because of its potential for negative effects on the environment and on the workers exposed to waste products of animals exposed to antibiotics.

Understanding Consumer Literacy about 'Milk'

Silke FeltzSilke Feltz, Ph.D. Candidate, Michigan Technological University

Adam FeltzAdam Feltz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Applied Ethics, Michigan Technological University

Are people product literate enough to reliably distinguish plant-based 'milk' products from animal-based 'milk' products? Currently, there are several policy initiatives to enact or enforce a ban on using 'milk' terms (e.g., milk, cheese, whey, cream) to describe plant-based products. The main justification for the prohibition is that using 'milk' terms to describe plant-based products would cause too much confusion in consumers. However, there is no empirical evidence that people are confused or regarding the extent of that confusion. This research project addresses this lack of empirical evidence by developing ways to assess consumers' "milk" product literacy.

Does the Path Model of Blame apply to animals?

Geoffrey GoodwinGeoffrey P. Goodwin, Associate Professor, Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

Adam BenforadoAdam Benforado, Professor of Law, Drexel University

Why do humans blame and punish animals for harms humans experience in their interactions with some animals. In prior work Goodwiin and Benforado have shown that one of the underlying motivations is retribution—some people feel that animals fundamentally deserve punishment when they are associated with harm to humans (Goodwin & Benforado, 2015). The present research project investigates two key drivers of such retributive attitudes: intentionality and reasons for acting. The project includes four studies in which relevant factors are manipulated: whether an animal "offender" attacks and kills a human intentionally or accidentally (Experiment 1), and the perceived culpability of an animal’s reasons for intentionally attacking a human (Experiments 2-4). The initial hypothesis for this research is that participants' judgments of blame and punishment will be elevated when animals attack seemingly intentionally, and when they do so for seemingly culpable reasons. Both features derive from the recently developed Path Model of Blame, which specifies the cognitive processes underlying judgments of blame for human offenders. Accordingly, this research has the potential to confirm for the first time that people punish animals in a way that is analogous to the way they punish humans. This can be expected to shed important light on widespread societal practices surrounding the killing of "dangerous" animals.

Using System Justification Theory to Improve Animal Welfare in Society

John  JostJohn T. Jost, Ph.D., Co-Director, Center for Social and Political Behavior, Professor of Psychology and Politics, New York University

Mao MogamiMao Mogami, Ph.D. student, Social Psychology, New York University

Mark HoffarthMark Hoffarth, Postdoctoral Researcher, New York University

Why do so many people tolerate the abhorrent treatment of animals, as in cases of factory farming and animal testing? This research identifies a key social psychological mechanism that may help to explain indifference to animal cruelty, namely, system justification: the motivation to defend, bolster, and justify aspects of the societal status quo.

This research involves a series of quantitative studies that will illuminate the social, cognitive, and motivational underpinnings of animal rights attitudes and provide a sound empirical basis for designing effective intervention campaigns to improve animal welfare. The project begins with the development of a new scale to measure contemporary attitudes pertaining to current controversies over animal rights. Next, the project investigators examine how “system justification motivation” undermines the promotion of animal rights by perpetuating negative attitudes toward animals, encouraging biased information processing of scientific information, and inhibiting collective action designed to stop the unjust treatment of animals.


David RandDavid Rand, Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics & Management, Yale University; Human Cooperation Lab; The Applied Cooperation Team

Molly CrossmanMolly Crossman, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Yale University, Innovative Interactions Lab

Gordon Kraft-ToddGordon Kraft-Todd, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Yale University, Human Cooperation Lab; The Applied Cooperation Team

Purebred dogs are favorites among pet owners and advertisers due to their distinctive appearance honed through hundreds of years of selective breeding. Yet these breeding practices have resulted in severe health defects among certain breeds, especially in short-headed dogs such as bulldogs and pugs. Despite the serious threat that these defects can pose to animal welfare and the calls for change in breeding practices from numerous professional organizations, the popularity of afflicted breeds continues to rise. Changing attitudes towards such selective breeding is a challenge because of the personal and commercial gains owners and advertisers, respectively, gain from supporting these practices. This research aims to understand of how these attitudes might be changed by leveraging a mechanism of cultural learning: the principle that "actions speak louder than words." The research findings can inform the development of more effective interventions, policies, and laws that promote more humane breeding practices and reduce the prevalence of severe hereditary problems in dogs.

Animal Trials and Tribulations: Activism, Legality, and Animal Rights in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Iván Sandoval-CervantesIván Sandoval-Cervantes, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso

This project examines the animal rights movement in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, by asking: How are animal rights constructed, challenged, and interpreted in a city with high rates of violence? Located in northern Mexico, across from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez was once "the most dangerous city in the world" (2008-2012). In recent years, violence in Ciudad Juarez has fluctuated but it has not ceased. Some popular and academic outlets have focused on the causes and consequences of violence, and how they relate to gender, drug trafficking, and neoliberalism. Other scholars have studied how violence and the violation of human rights have produced social protests, and ongoing criticisms of the legal system. These studies have shown how different types of violence overlap, the faulty application of the law, and the potential of social mobilizations. Missing from these discussions, is consideration of the emerging animal rights movement, which has grown throughout Mexico, including in Ciudad Juarez, and which addresses violence against non-human animals both through legal channels and through public forums. Understanding the ways in which animal rights are conceptualized in the courtroom and in everyday life can illustrate the relationship between animals, humans, and violence in Ciudad Juarez.

Correlating policies and human-caused mortality in an endangered carnivore species

Francisco Santiago-ÁvilaFrancisco J. Santiago-Ávila, Ph.D. Candidate, Carnivore Coexistence Lab, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Recent peer-reviewed literature provides empirical evidence that poaching is the primary cause of death in many carnivore populations worldwide. However, given its illegal nature, poaching proves extremely difficult to detect, measure, and prevent. This often results in its underestimation when evaluating policy alternatives. Although the scholarly literature has focused on providing reliable estimates of poaching, the question of what policy conditions (e.g., liberalizing killing by the public or government agents) may mediate poaching risk for individual animals remains largely unaddressed. Exploring this relationship is critical for developing policies that effectively target poaching or rescinding those that may exacerbate it, which could potentially allow for higher population viability and improved coexistence of carnivores and people. This research project will address these gaps in knowledge through an analysis of government data on radio-collared wolves for three populations classified as endangered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service: Wisconsin gray wolves, Mexican gray wolves and red wolves. The principal investigators will use statistical techniques, including survival analyses, to evaluate if wolves face a significantly higher or lower risk of poaching, given on-the-ground policy changes. This research is potentially relevant to other controversial large carnivore populations, e.g., grizzly bears, experiencing high human-caused mortality and human-wildlife conflict.

More Information

Contact Information

Taimie Bryant
Director, Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program


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