UBC and BC SPCA Launch New Research Chair to Study Companion Animals

UBC and BC SPCA Launch New Research Chair to Study Companion Animals

June 22, 2020 – Companion animals play a large role in their adopted families and in service programs where their social interactions can benefit people with disabilities. Alexandra Protopopova, an Assistant Professor in UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, has done extensive research to improve the fate of companion animals and those who surround them.

Now Protopopova has been named the NSERC/BC SPCA Industrial Research Chair in Animal Welfare, and she will lead research between UBC and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) over the next five years.

“Companion animals face critical issues related to optimal housing in animal shelters, rehabilitation and adoption following cruelty or neglect, import of rescue animals, and in various other human-animal interaction contexts,” says Protopopova. “I’ll be working with the scientific community, professionals in non-profit organizations, and the companion animal industry to discover new ways we can improve the lives of companion animals.”

The new program will combine research, public education and outreach and will be integrated into the Faculty’s established and renowned Animal Welfare Program, which was first created in 1997.

“Our Animal Welfare Program has a long history of transferring rigorous research into findings that directly benefit industry and improve outcomes in the field, both here in Canada and abroad,” said Rickey Yada, Dean, Faculty of Land and Food Systems. “We are very pleased that Dr. Protopopova will be expanding into this new area for UBC and working in partnership with the BC SPCA.”

This program runs from 2020-2025 and will generate cutting-edge research as well as create multidisciplinary training opportunities for graduate students, professionals in the companion animal industry, and for undergraduate students through the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award program.

The BC SPCA aims to further develop research-based standards that help inform monitoring and regulation of animal industries. For example, it works nationally with animal producer organizations on Codes of Practice for farm animals. Recently, the BC SPCA has been working with pest control operators, dog trainers and pet boarding/daycare services through its AnimalKind accreditation program. In Canada, the companion animal welfare sector has the greatest capacity and need for research growth and innovation.

Protopopova’s work will fall under three themes: 1) behaviour and welfare of cats in animal shelters, 2) behaviour and welfare of dogs, and 3) behaviour and welfare of pet rabbits and rats in animal shelters. Studies will be conducted at UBC LFS, the BC SPCA, and other animal shelters. The BC SPCA is comprised of 44 locations, employs 572 staff members, 5,500 volunteers, and assists over 45,000 animals per year.

Protopopova is the inaugural NSERC/BC SPCA Industrial Research Chair in Animal Welfare. She holds a PhD and MSc in Behaviour Analysis (Psychology) from the University of Florida and two Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (one in Pre- Veterinary and Animal Sciences and the other in Neuroscience).

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports students in their advanced studies, promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian organizations to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects. NSERC researchers are on the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence.

For more information, please contact:

Karen Lee
Communications, UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems
Email: Karen.lee98@ubc.ca
Tel.: 604-312-6343

Sara Dubois
Chief Scientific Officer, BC SPCA
Adjunct Professor, UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems
Email: sara.dubois@ubc.ca