24/7 approach to promoting optimal welfare for animals in human care

Creating opportunities for animals in our care to have positive experiences, 24/7 across lifespan. 

Animals are everywhere.

In nature, zoos, research laboratories, on farms, in people's homes, on the streets and in so many different environments and settings - wild and in human care.

An animal is an individual and he or she cares how life is lived

Just like humans animals want to have a safe, fun, interesting, challenging and comfortable life preferably avoiding negative experiences. The type and frequency of positive and negative experiences depends on many factors, like what choices and control animals have and how they as individuals perceive their world. It doesn't matter what species they are all individual animals care about what happens to them.


We must be advocates for the animals in our care

It is our challenge to try and understand the animals in our care as we act as advocates for them. We may for example study their sensory and cognitive world (umwelt) to interpret their behaviour, or work to understand their needs then assess and improve welfare.

Research on a wide variety of animal welfare topics should be conducted in all captive settings to contribute to the understanding of what animals need and want. Research on their behaviour, social life, nutrition, habitat as well as environmental enrichment, training and the human-animal interaction is important to make science-based and ethical decisions in favour of the animals and their wellbeing.

The focus should not only be on avoiding negative states but on increasing positive ones

Trying to understand what another being might be experiencing is challenging and as Dr. Lori Gruen writes in her book Entangled Empathy, something that's not easy.

"Entangled empathy is not something we can engage in without critical attention, practice, and correction. I think it is wise to add a good dose of humility to the process of empathizing and the actions that spring from it. In other words, entangled empathy requites work; in that work, however, lie great rewards."

Lori Gruen

Publications: 24/7 approach paper


In 2018, 'The 24/7 approach to promoting optimal welfare for captive wild animals' written by Sabrina Brando Msc and Prof Hannah Buchanan-Smith was published in Behavioural Processes.

The publication discussed our ethical responsibility as animal caregivers and how husbandry activities are often scheduled for the convenience of care staff working within the constraints of the facility, rather than considering the biological and psychological requirements of the animals themselves.

The 24/7 approach provides a holistic framework to map features of the animal’s life cycle, taking into account their natural history, in relation to variations in the captive environment, across day and night, weekdays, weekends, and seasons.

They propose a welfare assessment tool based upon 14 criteria to allow care staff to determine if their animals’ welfare needs are met.

Download the paper

The pursuit of optimal animal welfare requires an interdisciplinary and global approach combining practical expertise and the sciences of animal wellbeing

Use our resources as tools to build awareness 

Humans are an inevitable part of the lives of all captive animals whether they are zoo-housed, companion, working, laboratory or farmed animals. The premise of the 24/7 animal welfare concept is to consider, map out and research whether the needs and wants of the individual animals under human care are being supported and met 24/7 across their lifespan.

Example workshop: common marmoset family

Download the example workshop to see how you can meet the needs and wants of animals in human care 24/7 across lifespan.

Please note that this workshop is not an animal welfare assessment. True animal welfare assessments would be based on animal-based indicators, monitored and assessed based on long-term data and preferably validated through animal welfare research.

Download the 24/7 workshop

Highlights of the 24/7 paper:

  • A new holistic framework in caring for captive wild animals 24/7 across lifespan is proposed.
  • This concept considers an individual's life cycle, needs and preferences influenced by a range of factors.
  • An animal welfare assessment tool with 14 welfare criteria is proposed.
  • This paper highlights the importance of habitat management and use of technologies for animals to be agents of their own lives.

Brando, S., & Buchanan-Smith, H. M. (2018). The 24/7 approach to promoting optimal welfare for captive wild animals. Behavioural Processes, 156, 83-95.

Download the paper


Download the 24/7 poster to share,  print or display in key places.



Download the 24/7 web-poster to interact online by exploring links, videos and further reading.



Download the 24/7 interactive booklet which describes all 14 animal welfare criteria discussed in the original paper.


 The authors

The 24/7 animal welfare concept was created by Sabrina Brando MSc and Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith who continue to develop this fundamental concept to promoting optimal animal welfare across lifespan.

Sabrina Brando PhD Candidate

Sabrina is director of AnimalConcepts and the Primate Care Training Program Coordinator for the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. Her work and research revolves around care, welfare and ethical related topics. Sabrina is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Stirling on the topic of human wellbeing and the human-animal interconnectedness.


Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith

Hannah is a professor in the Psychology department with the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Stirling. Hannah is interested in animal behaviour and ecology, comparative colour vision, animal welfare and human-animal interactions and has conducted both field research and research on captive animals. Through various efforts Hannah promotes the welfare of animals housed in captivity.


Download the paper in different languages

More languages coming soon

Explore the 24/7 approach further

See how the 24/7 approach can be applied to all areas of animals care by exploring content of your choice at your pace

Become a member

Get support in applying the 24/7 approach to animals in your care. We offer a range of consultancy services which support wellbeing

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Staff need care too. See how you can support and care for your team 24/7 through membership for the whole organisation

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