Scale of UK canine health and welfare research funding

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), which explored the amount of UK not-for-profit funding for research into canine health and welfare, found that 109 UK funders provided £57.8 million between 2012 and 2022. This study is the first of its kind, providing funders and researchers with a benchmark for strategic reforms to enhance the effectiveness of future funding of research to improve canine lives.

While research into canine health and welfare is supported by Government and charitable and private UK funding organisations, to date there has been no oversight into the breadth and depth of these funding activities. This study, led by the RVC’s Dr Alison Skipper, Postdoctoral Researcher into Canine Research Funding; Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science; and Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology, therefore set out to fill this knowledge gap and help ensure resources are joined up and used effectively.

Conducting this study, the researchers surveyed UK canine health and welfare funding from not-for-profit funders between 2012 and 2022. Funding data on canine research was collected from 10 wide-scope funders (UK Government funding councils and medical charities); 18 animal-directed funders (organisations specifically concerned with animal health and welfare); and 81 breed community groups.

The research revealed that in the UK between 2012 and 2022, 109 UK funders provided £57.8 million of traceable canine-relevant funding. This included wide-scope funders which contributed £41.2 million (71.2% of total funding); animal-directed organisations that contributed £16.3 million (28.1% of total funding); breed-specific groups that contributed £370,000 (0.6% of total funding); and individual grants ranging from £300 to £2.3 million.

Other findings included:

  • The Dogs Trust (7.0 million); The Kennel Club Charitable Trust (KCCT) (4.0 million); and PetPlan Charitable Trust (2.8 million) were the largest animal-directed funders
  • The University of Edinburgh (10.3 million); the Royal Veterinary College (7.6 million); and the University of Liverpool (5.6 million) were the universities that received the most canine-relevant funding
  • Animal-directed research grants tended to be smaller than those from wide-scope funders and often addressed different topics. For example, One Health research attracted £17.5 million of total funding, 97% of it provided by wide-scope funders
  • Animal-directed funders tended to support projects more directly concerned with dogs, with some funders favouring particular topics. For example, breed-specific disease related to conformation was overwhelmingly (94%) funded by animal-directed funders, with 83% of the total amount provided by just two organisations, KCCT (2.4 million) and Dogs Trust (1.1 million)
  • Some topics were only supported by animal-directed funders, such as the welfare of dogs in shelters, where just under £250,000 of research funding was altogether provided by Battersea, Dogs Trust, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and Waltham.

The study also developed new metrics to compare ’benefit for the dog’ and ’pathway to impact’ across different research projects. These tools differentiate between research primarily intended to produce direct benefit for dogs and projects with other priorities, such as advancing human health. These new metrics will help inform future research funding, highlighting areas with the most significant impact on canine lives.

Dr Alison Skipper, Researcher in Canine Health Research at the RVC and lead author of the paper, said:

" It shows that research funding from charities and similar organisations makes a real difference in tackling specific canine problems and how important it is that funding continues to be invested so we can further improve canine lives."

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and co-author of the paper, said:

"With around 11 million dogs currently estimated in the UK, this new study identifies that more than £5 per living dog has been invested in research over the past decade. This highlights both how much the UK public love their dogs but also how concerned we are about their health issues. While more funding and research is certainly needed to ensure we can continue to enhance the lives of our canine friends, these findings set the benchmark and will help ensure future funding is distributed effectively."

Dr Andrew Higgins, Trustee of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said:

"It was exciting and rewarding to bring together dog charities to fund this important piece of work, which the KCCT was very happy to support. The original aim was to undertake a ’gap analysis’ to see what work has been done specifically to benefit the dog and with a pathway to impact so as to inform future decisions.

"Funding should be proportionate to the frequency, importance and welfare implications of a disease or condition, and I am confident these results will be of significant help to funders and researchers in this important sector."

Simona Zito, Grants & Programmes Manager at Battersea, said:

"At Battersea our commitment to animal welfare extends far beyond the rescue work at our centres, including providing funding to a number of veterinary and welfare programmes and organisations around the world. The findings from this research will be such a great help in identifying key areas that are most in need of our support in the future."

Reference

Skipper, A.M., Packer, R.M.A., O’Neill, D.G. (2024) ’Researcher, research thyself’ Mapping the landscape of canine health and welfare research funding provided by UK not-for-profit organisations from 2012-2022’, PLOS ONE. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0303498.

The full paper is available from 23 May 2024 (8 pm UK time) and can be accessed at:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/­article’id=10.1371/­journal.pone.0303498

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About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK’s largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2024.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • The RVC is a research-led institution, with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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