Climate Change and Companion Animals: Identifying Links and Opportunities for Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies

Alexandra Protopopova, Lexis H. Ly, Bailey H. Eagan, Kelsea M. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent natural disasters and weather extremes are a stark reminder that we live in a climate crisis. Climate scientists and policymakers have asked each discipline to anticipate and create mitigation and adaptation plans in preparation for a worsening future. Companion animals both impact and are impacted by the changing climate through their intrinsically linked relationships to human society. In this theoretical paper, we argue that companion animal scientists are well-suited to address climate change issues. We identify several anticipated climate change outcomes, such as an increase in extreme weather events, human migration, disasters, and an increase in human inequity, and connect these outcomes to identified or hypothesized impacts on companion animals and the human animal bond. We suggest opportunities to reduce climate change impacts on companion animals that include alterations to owner caretaking behaviors and breeding practices, and education of owners and governments on zoonosis and disaster preparedness. Furthermore, building climate resilience through decreasing inequity in companion animal fields is paramount; and we propose that a starting place can be in animal sheltering and other support services. We also summarize how companion animals and owners caretaking behaviors are impacting climate change through the use of finite natural resources as well as pollution and carbon emissions. We propose that replacement, reduction, and refinement, that guide laboratory animal research, can also be useful to mitigate the effects of companion animals on the environment. We suggest criteria for successful mitigation and adaptation plans to include equitability, sustainability, respect for animals, and measurability. Finally, we end on a call to all companion animal professionals to actively consider their role in mitigating the impact of companion animals on the climate and preparing for the fallout of climate change in their communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-181
Number of pages16
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

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