Welfare consequences of digging substrates in blue foxes
The aim of the present study was to evaluate welfare implications of digging substrates on blue foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in wire cages. Digging substrates compared here were sandbox and digging plates placed on cage floor and cage wall. Digging in sand was considered as a goal-directed behaviour. Plates provided foxes possible to perform digging behaviour per se. Each group comprised of 20 juveniles housed in pairs. The results showed that motivation to dig for a specific goal was no greater than to perform digging behaviour per se only. There was a significant difference in dirtiness of the fur between the groups (P<0.001). The pelts originating from animals in sandbox cages were dirtier than those from other groups. Plates on cage wall and floor did not negatively affect fur quality. Behavioural recordings did not reveal marked differences between the groups. The weight gain in animals with digging plates was similar to that in animals housed in standard cages. The variation in body weight was highest in animals with a sandbox. No statistical difference was found in blood picture between experimental groups. There was a slight tendency (P=0.07) for adrenal glands to be heaviest in animals from the sandbox group. Digging plates were considered to be more suitable as digging substrates than a sandbox.
Keywords:Digging animal welfare motivation fur animal production
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