Using animal behaviour to determine suffering in companion animals (Wellington talk)
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12/06/2017 to 16/06/2017
When: Monday 12 June - Friday 16 June
8:00 a.m.
Where: Wellington SPCA
140 Alexandra Road
Mount Victoria
Wellington, Wellington 
New Zealand
Presenter: Dr Rebecca Ledger BSc (Hons) MSc PhD FRSB
Contact: Nicole Brosnahan
+64 4 495 1140

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SPCA , NZVA, VPIS, VCNZ, MPI  and Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre Massey (AWSBC) are delighted to be hosting a visit to New Zealand by Dr Rebecca Ledger, a companion animal behaviour scientist, from Canada.


Dr Rebecca Ledger  has successfully developed a method using animal behaviour to determine suffering in companion animals.  She pioneered the forensic use of behavioural evidence to assess animal suffering in cases involving cruelty and neglect. Her technique uses behavioural and physical evidence to determine emotional suffering for animal cruelty prosecutions and she has been an expert witness in legal cases involving dog aggression and animal cruelty.

Using behavioural forensics in cases of animal cruelty and neglect

Unlike the presence of injury, for which there is tangible, physical evidence, suffering is a feeling that an animal experiences mentally. Animals cannot verbally tell us how they are feeling, and hence, the negative emotional states that animals experience when abused and neglected, historically, have gone un-punished in the legal system.

Decades of scientific research into animal welfare now allow the emotional experience of animals to be inferred using behavioural and physiological measures. In order to be credible, this inference needs to be evidence-based and requires a species-specific understanding of how effective states in animals can be assessed.

Dr Ledger has used an evidence-based approach to successfully demonstrate suffering in animal cruelty prosecutions.  Cases include the abuse of animal patients by veterinarians, dog trainers, owners and in research facilities.

Rebecca’s work recognizes the significance of using behavioural signs to demonstrate animal suffering even when no physical evidence is available. 

Wellington:  NZVA, VPIS, VCNZ

Rebecca will be presenting two short veterinary specific talks:

  • Using animal behaviour to determine suffering in companion animals
  • Update on relevancy of Breed Specific Legislation (aggressive dogs)

There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion.

Date: Thursday 15th June 2017

Time: 6.30pm  for nibbles and Drinks, 7pm start talks.

Venue: Wellington SPCA  140 Alexandra Road Mount Victoria

RSVP: Please click the 'register' above

Cost: No charge

All veterinarians and veterinary personnel are warmly invited to attend this evening meeting

Rebecca is also speaking at the meetings below:

Veterinarians, animal welfare inspectors, and any one with an interest/working in the animal welfare sector are welcome to attend.

Please see details below on how to RSVP to each event.

Auckland: SPCA *NOW FULL*

Law and Behavioural Forensics Seminar; co-presented by Dr Rebecca Ledger and the Crown Law. There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion.

Date : Monday 12 June 2017

Time : 9am-5pm: Morning and afternoon tea and lunch will be provided.

Venue : Auckland, SPCA 



Palmerston North: AWSBC Massey University 

Dr Rebecca Ledger will present three sessions:

  • How behavioural and physical characteristics of animals can provide credible insights into emotional suffering.
  • How evidence based on these characteristics can be used to demonstrate such suffering using various successful case studies as examples
  • Discussion of how this process has been used successfully in Canadian courts and how it might be applied in New Zealand.

Date: Wednesday 14 June 2017

Time: 1.00 to 4.00 pm .

Venue: Ira Cunningham Lecture Theatre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University.

RSVP: Please RSVP to David Mellor -


Wellington: MPI


Dr Rebecca Ledger will be presenting a seminar/workshop on  “Using behavioral forensics in cases of animal cruelty and neglect “

Date: Friday 16 June 2017 

Time: 10.30am- 12.30pm

Venue: Ministry for Primary Industries, 25 The Terrace, Wellington

RSVP: Please RSVP to to secure your place. Seating is limited and security clearance needed.