Recently, zookeepers' role in monitoring and assessing zoo animal welfare is gaining importance. One hundred-sixteen zoo canid keepers responded to an online questionnaire aimed at assessing, on a 1 to 5 scoring scale, their perception of the importance and fulfilment of the Brambell's Freedoms for zoo canids, the bond with canids under their care, and their level of job satisfaction. Results showed that zookeepers perceive the Brambell's Freedoms as highly important (median = 5, min-max = 3-5), but not equally guaranteed (median = 3, min-max = 1-5, p < 0.01). Although there was no difference in their perception of the importance of each freedom, those related to psychological issues (median = 3, min-max = 1-5) were perceived as significantly less guaranteed than those addressing physical needs (median = 4.5, min-max = 1-5, Mann-Whitney U test, p < 0.01). Female zookeepers tended to perceive all freedoms as more important (Ordinal Logistic Regression model, p = 0.009), as well as more guaranteed (Ordinal Logistic Regression model, p = 0.007), than male zookeepers. Regardless of gender, a more positive perception of the Brambell's Freedoms for zoo canids was associated with higher job satisfaction (Mann-Whitney U test, p < 0.01, ρ = 0.241). The latter was also positively correlated with zookeepers' perception of the strength of the bond with the canids under their care (Spearman Rho's correlation, p = 0.01, ρ = 0.230). Our results highlight the need for zoos to focus on guaranteeing psychological welfare of their canids. Enhancing animal welfare may increase zookeepers' job satisfaction.
Keywords: animal welfare; bond; canids; five freedoms; gender; job satisfaction; zookeepers.