Animal Welfare Committee

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Animal Welfare Committee

Providing for good animal welfare encompasses both ethical and scientific responsibilities. AZA-accredited institutions have an ethical responsibility to ensure the well-being of the animals in their care. In addition, AZA-accredited institutions have a scientific responsibility to gain a greater understanding of the well-being of the animals in their care by advancing animal welfare science.

Animal Welfare Committee's Definition of Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare refers to an animal’s collective physical, mental, and emotional states over a period of time, and is measured on a continuum from good to poor.

Explanation: An animal typically experiences good welfare when healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to develop and express species-typical relationships, behaviors, and cognitive abilities, and not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, or distress. Because physical, mental, and emotional states may be dependent on one another and can vary from day to day, it is important to consider these states in combination with one another over time to provide an assessment of an animal’s overall welfare status.

Animal Welfare Committee's Mission Statement

The AZA Animal Welfare committee promotes good welfare for animals in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, by assisting member institutions in identifying and applying best practices in animal welfare and through promoting advances in animal welfare science.

The Animal Welfare Committee will achieve its mission by:

  • Promoting a common understanding of animal welfare in the zoo and aquarium community.Assisting zoos and aquariums in identifying and applying best practices in animal welfare.
  • Encouraging the development of research projects and assessment tools to advance and monitor animal welfare.
  • Educating and engaging AZA zoos and aquariums in applying assessment tools.
  • Understanding and influencing public perception about animal welfare in AZA zoos and aquariums.


Nadja Wielebnowski, Ph.D., Oregon Zoo


Chris Kuhar, Ph.D., Cleveland Metroparks Zoo


Stephanie Allard, Ph.D., Detroit Zoo

David Bocian, San Francisco Zoo

Kathy Carlstead, Ph.D., Honolulu Zoo

Linda Criss, Akron Zoo

Greg Geise, Binder Park Zoo, President Emeritus

Beth Stark Posta, Toledo Zoo

David Powell, Ph.D., Bronx Zoo

Gary Priest, San Diego Zoo Global

Suzi Rapp, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium  

Stephen Ross, Ph.D., Lincoln Park Zoo

David Shepherdson, Ph.D., Oregon Zoo

Julie Scardina, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens

Karen Terio, D.V.M., Ph.D., University of Illinois

Douglas Whiteside, D.V.M., Calgary Zoo

Jessica Whitham, Ph.D., CZS / Brookfield Zoo

Megan Wilson, Ph.D., Zoo Atlanta


Joe Barber

Erika Bauer, Ph.D., Smithsonian National Zoo

Scott Carter, Detroit Zoo

Sara Hallager, Smithsonian National Zoo

Amanda Ista, Milwaukee County Zoo, AAZK

Jill Mellen, Disney's Animal Kingdom

Lance Miller, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global

Donald Moore III, Ph.D., Smithsonian National Zoo

Greg Tarry, CAZA

Bill Zeigler, CZS / Brookfield Zoo

PR Adviser:

Sharon Dewar, Lincoln Park Zoo

Board Liaison:

John Walczak, Louisville Zoo

AZA Staff Liaison:

Debborah Luke, Ph.D.