Researchers study noise, human contact in shelters

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Recent research has examined the effect of noise and of human contact on dogs at animal shelters.

Crista Coppola, PhD, an adjunct instructor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, authored articles about the studies with faculty from Colorado State University's Department of Animal Sciences—R. Mark Enns, PhD, assistant professor, and Temple Grandin, PhD, associate professor.

"Noise in the animal shelter environment: Building design and the effects of daily noise exposure" appeared in this year's first issue of the quarterly Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

The paper describes noise measurements at a shelter dating to 1999. Peak noise regularly exceeded the measuring capacity of the dosimeter, which was 118.9 decibels.

The authors assert that shelter design often fails to address noise abatement, despite evidence that noise causes stress in dogs.

The paper "Human interaction and cortisol: Can human contact reduce stress for shelter dogs?" appeared in the March 30 edition of the journal Physiology and Behavior. The article describes a study of dogs that engaged in a 45-minute human contact session during the second day in a shelter.

Researchers examined cortisol concentrations in salivary fluid from each dog on the second, third, fourth, and ninth days. Dogs that engaged in a human contact session had lower cortisol concentrations on the third day than dogs in a control group.

The researchers concluded that human contact might be an effective means of reducing the cortisol response of shelter dogs. The sessions also served as a resource for information about the dogs' temperaments and personalities that could facilitate adoptions.