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Center for Interaction of Animals & Society

The Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society (CIAS) was established to provide a forum for addressing the many practical and moral issues arising from the interactions of animals and society. The study of human-animal interactions—sometimes known as Anthrozoology—is still a new and developing field that straddles the boundaries between traditional academic disciplines. The CIAS therefore strives for an interdisciplinary approach and the involvement of scholars and researchers from a wide variety of different backgrounds and interests.

Are You a Dog or Cat Owner?

Dogs and cats make great companionsTake part in a citizen-science project investigating factors that contribute most to successful (and unsuccessful) owner-pet relationships.

  • Share these links with other cat and/or dog owners.
  • The study is an international collaboration between Penn Vet’s Center for the Interaction of Animals & Society, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • You need to be at least 18 years old to participate, and each questionnaire (dog or cat) takes around 20 minutes to complete.

The mission of the CIAS is to promote understanding of human-animal interactions and relationships across a wide range of contexts including companion animals, farm animals, laboratory animals, zoo animals, and free-living wild animals. Specifically, the CIAS aims to:

  1. Study the influence of relationships with animals on human physical and mental health and well-being.
  2. Investigate the impact of these relationships on the behavior and welfare of the animals involved.
  3. Encourage constructive, balanced, and well-informed debate and discussion on the ethics of animal use.
  4. Use the knowledge and information gained from this work to benefit both people and animals.

CIAS is also home to the C-BARQ — the world’s most referenced behavioral assessment tool for dogs — and, more recently, the Fe-BARQ a brand new behavioral evaluation tool for cats.

 cbarq logo
Fe-BARQ logo

Contact Information


  Donate to CIAS
  • Development of new tools for measuring behavior and behavior problems in dogs and cats

    The C-BARQ:

    Because most dogs and cats live inside people’s homes where they are very difficult to observe for extended periods, it is necessary to develop different kinds of measurement techniques in order to study their behavior and welfare. The CIAS has therefore devoted many years of research to developing and validating new methods for evaluating the behavior of these companion animals. For dogs, a major outcome of these efforts is the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), a widely-used survey technique designed to provide dog owners and professionals with standardized assessments of canine temperament and behavior:

      The C-BARQ is currently the only behavioral assessment instrument of its kind to be extensively tested for reliability and validity on large samples of dogs of many breeds. It is currently used by numerous working dog organizations worldwide for routinely evaluating their dogs’ behavior.

    The current version consists of 100 questions describing the different ways in which dogs typically respond to common events, situations, and stimuli in their environment. The C-BARQ is simple to use, and can be completed by anyone who is reasonably familiar with a dog's typical, day-to-day behavior. On average, it takes from 10-15 minutes to complete.

      The C-BARQ is available to veterinarians, behavioral consultants, trainers, researchers, shelters and rescue groups, breeders, and working dog organizations with an interest in screening dogs for the presence and severity of behavioral problems. Currently, it is also freely available to pet-owners interested in comparing their dogs to others in the C-BARQ database. Development of the C-BARQ has been supported by the Arell Foundation, The Pet Care Trust, the Kenneth Scott Trust, the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation, the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and the Morris Animal Foundation.

    The Fe-BARQ:

    Recently, the CIAS has focused on developing a feline equivalent of the C-BARQ, the Feline Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (Fe-BARQ) as a tool for measuring behavior and temperament in pet cats. This project is supported by a grant from the Waltham Foundation.

  • Behavioral development in guide and service dogs

    Of the several thousand dogs bred each year by guide and service dog organizations, over half fail to graduate successfully as working dogs. Behavior and temperament problems of one sort or another account for approximately 50-70% of these failures.

    In collaboration with several national guide and service dog agencies (e.g., Canine Companions for Independence , Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Leader Dogs for the Blind, and The Seeing Eye, ), the CIAS has conducted or supervised a number of projects that seek to clarify the developmental and genetic causes of behavioral and temperament problems in these dogs. These projects include (1) the development of reliable, standardized methods for measuring and quantifying the behavior and temperament of working dogs at different stages of the life cycle, (2) analysis of the heritable genetic components of canine temperament and, ultimately, the identification of genetic markers for these traits, (3) the study of early environmental influences on the development of behavior and cognition, and (4) the development of non-invasive methods to investigate the physiological correlates (stress hormones) of working performance in working dogs.

    Although aimed at improving the success rates of guide and service dogs, the results of these studies are also likely to be of benefit to companion dogs, and other categories of working dogs. This work is supported from various sources including individual guide/service dog agencies, the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and the Morris Animal Foundation.

  • Behavioral development in companion dogs

    Behavioral problems are the largest single cause of canine abandonment, relinquishment to shelters, and premature euthanasia in the USA. The CIAS is investigating the development of canine behavior problems in pet dogs, focusing particularly on the effects of early experience from 4-16 weeks of age. The aim of these studies is to improve care, husbandry and rehoming procedures for puppies at this vulnerable age and, by doing so, reduce the prevalence of behavior problems in the pet dog population. The work is ongoing, and has been supported by a number of private foundations including: the Arell Foundation, The Pet Care Trust, the Kenneth Scott Trust, the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation, the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and Best Friends Animal Society.

  • Monitoring health and behavior in search & rescue dogs deployed at the WTC and Pentagon sites following the 9/11 disasters

    In collaboration with the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the CIAS is conducting studies of the long-term behavioral effects of deployment at the WTC and Pentagon sites on a population of search & rescue dogs. Behavioral effects are being monitored in the context of findings from parallel studies of the medical condition of these dogs, and the physical and emotional well-being of their handlers. This work is supported by a grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation to Dr. C.M. Otto, the Project Director.

  • Behavioral evaluation of pet dogs relinquished to animal shelters

    Currently, many shelters assess canine behavior on intake by using standardized behavioral tests performed by shelter personnel as a means of evaluating dogs’ suitability for adoption. However, this practice raises doubts concerning how ‘typical’ a dog’s test responses are likely to be in the highly stressful circumstances surrounding relinquishment. Current research by CIAS seeks to evaluate the reliability of canine behavioral information provided by relinquishing owners, as well as the feasibility of using a modified version of the C-BARQ as a shelter intake screening tool. These projects have been supported by grants from the Morris Animal Foundation, as well as a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine grant. The results will soon be published in the journal, Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

  • Understanding urban animal cruelty

    Although it is widely assumed that an association exists between cruelty to animals and other forms of violent or criminal behavior, the supporting evidence is surprisingly limited. The CIAS has initiated studies that used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze Pennsylvania SPCA statistics on reported animal cruelty and neglect in the City of Philadelphia between 1996 and 2006. Reported animal abuse cases were mapped according to address, and their frequency and distribution investigated in relation to socioeconomic, demographic, and contextual factors. The links between animal abuse and other forms of criminal behavior were also explored.

    Funding for these projects was provided by a Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine Grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the School of Social Policy and Practice of the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Animal-assisted interventions in adolescent mental health

    The CIAS has compiled a detailed literature review on the theory and practice of animal-assisted interventions in the treatment of mental health problems in older children and adolescents.

    The project was supported by a grant to James Serpell and Symme Trachtenberg from The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.

  • Animals and religion

    This project focuses on the historical importance of animals in the evolution of religious ideas and ideologies, with particular emphasis on the extraordinary role of animals in medieval and early modern witchcraft beliefs and prosecutions; a topic that has been ignored by historians despite the vast scholarly literature pertaining to other aspects of the European witch hunts. Some of this work was supported by a visiting fellowship award to James Serpell from the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University.

NB: For a comprehensive list of Dr. Serpell's publications, visit 



Manning, A. & Serpell, J.A. (Eds.) Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives. New York & London, Routledge, 1994.

Serpell, J.A. (Ed.) The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Serpell, J.A. In the Company of Animals, 2nd (Revised) Edition. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (Canto), 1996.

Podberscek, A.L, Paul, E.S. & Serpell, J.A. (Eds.) Companion Animals and Us. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Serpell, J.A. and McCune, S. (Eds.) Waltham Pocketbook of Human-Animal Interactions. Waltham, UK, 2012.

All of these books are available for purchase through By following this link, you will be taken to Amazon's listings for these books.

Articles & Book Chapters

Serpell, J.A. Pet-keeping and animal domestication: A reappraisal. In Clutton-Brock, J. (Ed.) The Walking Larder: Patterns of Domestication, Pastorialism and Predation. Unwin Hyman: London, pp. 10-21, 1989.

Serpell, J.A. Beneficial effects of pet ownership on some aspects of human health and behaviour. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine,84: 717-720, 1991.

Serpell, J.A. Evidence for an association between pet behaviour and owner attachment levels. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 47: 49-69, 1996. 

Jagoe, J.A. & Serpell, J.A. Owner characteristics and interactions and the prevalence of canine behaviour problems. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 47: 31-42, 1996.

Paul, E.S. & Serpell, J.A. Obtaining a new pet dog: effects on middle childhood children and their families. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 47: 17-29, 1996.

Podberscek, A.L. & Serpell, J.A. The English Cocker Spaniel: preliminary findings on aggressive behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 47: 75-89, 1996. 

Podberscek, A.L. & Serpell, J.A. Environmental influences on the expression of aggressive behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 52: 215-227, 1997.

Podberscek, A.L. & Serpell, J.A. Aggressive behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels and the personality of their owners. Veterinary Record,141: 73-76, 1997.

Serpell, J.A. Pets and companion animals. In Bekoff, M. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Animal Rights & Animal Welfare, Greenwood, Westport, CT, pp. 111-12., 1998.

Serpell, J.A. Domestication. In Bekoff, M. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Animal Rights & Animal Welfare, Greenwood, Westport, CT, pp. 136-8, 1998.

Serpell, J.A. Attitudes toward animals: Pre-Christian Attitudes. In Bekoff, M. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Animal Rights & Animal Welfare, Greenwood, Westport, CT, pp. 76-8, 1998.

Serpell, J.A. Working out the beast: An alternative history of western humaneness. (Chapter 3) In Ascione, F. & Arkow, P. (Eds.) Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. Purdue, IN, Purdue University Press, 1999.

Serpell, J.A. Sheep in wolves' clothing? Attitudes to animals among farmers and scientists. In Dolins, F. (Ed.) Animal Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 26-33, 1999.

Serpell, J.A. Animal companions and human well-being: an historical exploration of the value of human-animal relationships (Chapter 1) in Fine, A.H. (Ed.) Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice. New York: Academic Press, 3-19, 1999.

Serpell, J.A., Coppinger, R. & Fine, A. The welfare of assistance and therapy animals: an ethical comment. (Chapter 18) in Fine, A.H. (Ed.) Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice. New York: Academic Press, 415-431,1999.

Podberscek, A.L., Hsu, Y. & Serpell, J.A. Evaluation of clomipramine as an adjunct to behavioural therapy in the treatment of separation-related problems in dogs. Veterinary Record, 145, 365-369, 1999.

Serpell, J.A. Creatures of the unconscious: companion animals as mediators. In Podberscek, A.L, Paul, E.S. & Serpell, J.A. (Eds.) Companion Animals and Us. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp.108-121, 2000.

Serpell, J.A. The domestication and history of the cat (Chapter 10) in Turner, D., Bateson, P.P.G. (Eds.) The Domestic Cat: the Biology of its Behaviour, 2nd (Revised) Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000.

Serpell, J.A. Guardian spirits or demonic pets: The concept of the witch's familiar in early modern England, 1530-1712. In Creager, A.N.H. & Jordan, W.C. (Eds.) The Human/Animal Boundary, pp. 157-190. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2002.

Serpell, J.A. & Hsu, Y. Development and validation of a novel method for evaluating temperament and behavior in guide dogs. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 74: 347-364, 2001

Serpell, J.A. Anthropomorphism and anthropomorphic selection - beyond the "cute response." Society & Animals, 11(1): 83-100, 2003.

Hsu, Y., Severinghaus, L.L. & Serpell, J.A. Dog keeping in Taiwan: Its contribution to the problem of free-roaming dogs. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 6(1): 1-23, 2003.

Hsu, Y. & Serpell, J.A. Development and validation of a questionnaire for measuring behavior and temperament traits in pet dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 223(9): 1293-1300, 2003.

Kruger, K., Trachtenberg, S. & Serpell, J.A. Can animals help humans heal? Animal-assisted interventions in adolescent mental health. Available on-line, 2004.

Serpell, J.A. Factors influencing human attitudes to animals and their welfare. Animal Welfare, 13: S145-151, 2004.

Otto, C.M., Downend, A.B., Serpell, J.A., Ziemer, L.S. & Saunders, H.M. Medical and behavioral surveillance of dogs deployed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from October 2001 to June 2002. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(6): 861-867, 2004.

Segurson, S., Serpell, J.A. & Hart, B.L. Evaluation of a behavioral assessment questionnaire for use in the characterization of behavioral problems in dogs relinquished to animal shelters, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 227(11):1755-1761, 2005.

Serpell, J.A. Animals and religion: Towards a unifying theory. In: de Jong, F. & van den Bos, R. (Eds.) The Human-Animal Relationship, pp. 9-22. Assen, Netherlands: Royal Van Gorcum, 2005.

Serpell, J.A. & Hsu, Y. Effects of breed, sex, and neuter status on trainability in dogs, Anthrozoös, 18(3):196-207, 2005.

Serpell, J.A. Factors influencing veterinary students' career choices and attitudes to animals, Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 32(4):491-496, 2005.

Kruger, K.A. & Serpell, J.A. Animal-assisted interventions in mental health: Definitions and theoretical foundations. In: Fine, A.H. (Ed.)Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice, 2nd Edition, pp. 21-38. New York: Academic Press, 2006. 

Duffy, D.L., Hsu, Y. and Serpell, J.A.* Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 114: 441-460, 2008.

Sherman, B.L. & Serpell, J.A. Training veterinary students in animal behavior to preserve the human-animal bond. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 35: 496-502, 2008.

Serpell, J.A. Having our dogs and eating them too: Why animals are a social issue. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 633-644, 2009.

Van den Berg, SM, Heuven, HC, Van den Berg, L, Duffy, DL & Serpell, JA. Evaluating the C-BARQ as a measure of stranger-directed aggression in three common dog breeds. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 124, 136-141, 2010.

Dalla Villa, P., Kahn, S., Stuardo, L., Iannetti, L., Di Nardo, A. & Serpell, J.A. Free-roaming dog control  among OIE member countries. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 97: 58-63, 2010.

Nagasawa, M., Tsujimura, A., Tateishi, K., Mogi, K., Ohta, M., Serpell, J.A. & Kikusui, T. Assessment of the factorial structure of the C-BARQ in Japan. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 73: 869-875, 2011.

McMillan, F.D., Duffy, D.L. and Serpell, J.A. Mental health of dogs formerly used as ‘breeding stock’ in commercial breeding establishments. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 135: 86-95, 2011.

Hunt, M.G., Otto, C.M., Serpell, J.A. and Alvarez, J. Interactions between handler well-being and canine health and behavior in search and rescue teams. Anthrozoös, 25: 323-335, 2012.

Duffy, D.L. and Serpell, J.A.* Predictive validity of a method for evaluating temperament in young guide and service dogs. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 138: 99-109, 2012.

Barnard, S., Siracusa, C., Reisner, I., Valsecchi, P. and Serpell, J.A. Validity of model devices used to assess canine temperament in behavioral tests. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 138: 79-87, 2012.

Serpell, J.A. Animal-assisted interventions and human health: An historical overview. European Journal of Companion Animal Practice, 22(3), 1-9, 2012.

Hoffman, C.L., Chen, P., Serpell, J.A. and Jacobson, K. Do dog behavioral characteristics predict the quality of the relationship between dogs and their owners? APA Human-Animal Interactions Bulletin, 1: 20-37, 2013.

McMillan, F.D., Serpell, J.A., Duffy, D.L., Masaoud, E. and Dohoo, I.R. Differences in behavioral and psychological characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders. JAVMA, 242 (10): 1359-1363, 2013.

Dalla Villa, P., Barnard, S., Di Fede, E., Podaliri, M., Candeloro, L., Di Nardo, A., Siracusa, C. and Serpell, J.A. Behavioral and physiological responses of shelter dogs to long-term confinement. Veterinaria Italiana, 49(2), 231-241, 2013.

Ghirlanda, S., Acerbi, A., Herzog, H. and Serpell, J.A. Fashion vs. function in cultural preferences: The case of dog breed popularity. PLoS One, 8(9): doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074770, 2013.

McGreevy, P.D., Georgevsky, D., Carrasco, J., Valenzuela, M., Duffy, D.L. and Serpell, J.A. (2013) Dog behavior co-varies with height, bodyweight and skull shape. PLoS One, 8(12): e80529. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080529, 2013.

McMillan, F.D., Duffy, D.L., Zawistowski, S.L. & Serpell, J.A. Behavioral and psychological characteristics of canine victims of abuse. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2014.962230.

Tamimi, N., Jamshidi, S, Serpell, J.A., Mousavi, S., Ghasempourabadi, Z. Assessment of a reliable questionnaire for evaluating dog behavior in Iran. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, (in press).

Duffy, D.L., Kruger, K.A. and Serpell, J.A.* Evaluation of a behavioral assessment tool for dogs relinquished to shelters. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, (in press).

 Dr. James Serpell

James Serpell, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare

Dr. Serpell's research interests include behavior and welfare of companion animals; development of human attitudes to animals; history of human-animal interactions; measurement of behavioral phenotypes in dogs and cats; ontogenesis of behavioral problems in companion and working dogs; animal-assisted therapeutic interventions.

Dr. Cindy Otto, Penn Vet Working Dog Center


  • Associate Professor, Emergency & Critical Care
  • Executive Director, Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Dr. Carlo Siracusa, Penn Vet

Carlo Siracusa, DVM, PhD, DACVB, DECAWBM

  • Clinical Assistant Professor, Behavior Medicine
  • Director, Behavior Medicine
Dr. Brittany Watson, Penn Vet

Brittany Watson, VMD, PhD, DACVPM

  • Clinical Assistant Professor, Shelter Medicine 
  • Director, Shelter Medicine, Staff Veterinarian

Inquiries Concerning Your Pet's Behavior:

If you have concerns about your pet's behavior and would like to speak with someone in Penn's Behavior Clinic, please call 215-898-3347, or e-mail:

To locate a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist in your area, a directory can be found on the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website.

To locate a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist in your area, a directory can found on the Animal Behavior Society website.

Inquiries Concerning Educational or Career Opportunities:

Penn Vet offers a Graduate Certificate and Master of Science in Animal Welfare & Behavior. Below are some other educational opportunities:

For general questions about educational and career opportunities in the field of Animal Behavior, please visit the educational guides available on the Animal Behavior Society website. This web site also contains information on becoming a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

For links to other research centers that focus on the study of human-animal interactions, please visit the listings on PsyETA's website.

General Inquiries for the CIAS:

The CIAS receives a large number of inquires from individuals seeking information on a wide variety of topics, including advice on career and educational opportunities in the field of human-animal interactions.

Unfortunately, we are a small group, and cannot keep up with the volume of requests that we receive, so please be aware that you may not receive a response if your inquiry is unrelated to the work of the Center.


How to Support the Center

The Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society (CIAS) derives all of its project funds from grants and donations, and could not exist without these crucial forms of support.

If you would like to assist the Center in carrying out its missions of promoting an understanding of human-animal interactions and relationships; investigating the impact of human-animal relationships on the behavior and welfare of the animals involved; and using the knowledge and information gained from this work to promote the humane use and treatment of animals, then please consider making a gift to support our programs.

Gifts can be made in memory or honor of a special pet or person. Notification of these special gifts will be published in Bellwether, the news magazine of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

It's easy to contribute online. Just visit the CIAS online giving form. It's fast, secure, and a great way to support the Center.

If you'd rather send a check, please take a moment to download and fill out the CIAS Gift Form (MSWord), which you can include with your check made payable to:
Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

Please note on your check that the gift is to support the 
Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society (CIAS)

Mail to:
Office of Advancement & Alumni Relations
University of Pennsylvania
School of Veterinary Medicine
3800 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6047

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