Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

New Core Standard of Welfare Practice for Captive Animals

International animal welfare charity, Wild Welfare, has published a Core Standard of Welfare Practice for Captive Animals, based upon a mass publication review.

New Core Standard of Welfare Practice for Captive Animals

International animal welfare charity, Wild Welfare, has published an updated Core Standard of Welfare Practice for Captive Animals, based upon a review of over 200 internationally-recognised and paper-reviewed publications on captive animal welfare.

The Core Standard document – now updated to its Third Edition with input and guidance from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – specifies and benchmarks the care and welfare requirements for captive animals.

This can be used as standalone guidance for captive animal caregivers, within a captive animal facility, or across zoological associations with assistance from Wild Welfare, using our tried and tested audit process. Using the Core Standard is how captive facilities such as zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and rescue centres can audit animal care practices and assess whether the animals are experiencing good welfare.

Simon Marsh training sanctuary staff to carry out their own welfare audits based on the Core Standard document.

There are an estimated 10,000+ captive wild animal facilities worldwide, including zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and rescue centres. Only a small percentage of these operate under any kind of animal welfare legislation or formal guidance. This results in the potential suffering of thousands of animals globally.

Wild Welfare recognised a need to develop internationally applicable guidance to implement positive changes in animal husbandry and management based on The Five Domains of Potential Welfare Compromise Model (The Five Domains). The Model illustrates how compromises in nutrition, environment, health and behaviour can all impact an animal’s mental state. By improving understanding of pain perception, sentience and cognition in animal species, the document promotes better overall welfare for captive animals.

The Five Domains of potential welfare compromise, interpreted and adapted from Mellor et al 2009 and Mellor, 2013).

One of the key updates for the third edition includes elements around the care provided for animals in sanctuaries and rescue centres, particularly in the rehabilitation and release of animals back into the wild. Wild Welfare works towards ensuring all animals kept in a captive environment, for whatever reason and for any period of time, are afforded the care to meet their welfare needs.

“Our Core Standard represents the culmination of several years’ work reviewing hundreds of publications on animal welfare, and collating these into a single document that lays out fundamental prescriptive requirements for good captive animal welfare. 

Written as a quality control standard, it provides a framework by which captive animal welfare can be appropriately audited. In this regard, it represents one of the first of its kind,” said senior author and Founder and Field Director of Wild Welfare, Dave Morgan.

Dave Morgan carrying out a welfare audit at a zoo.

Some animal management practices are deemed counteractive to achieving good animal welfare altogether by Wild Welfare, such as physical punishment of animals and unregulated breeding. The charity refers to these practices in their Core Standard of Welfare Practice as “non-negotiables”. During a welfare assessment of a facility, the charity would urge the non-negotiable practices to cease immediately in order to improve animal welfare.

Wild Welfare has a proven track record of delivering training to individual facilities, associations and NGOs, resulting in better animal welfare standards. Bespoke training materials and resources provided by the charity facilitate the changes needed to allow animals in captivity the opportunity to thrive, and not just survive.

Simon Marsh, Wild Welfare Director, said, “Wild Welfare recognises the role that zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and rescue centres play in conservation, education and research, but this must be underpinned by good animal care practices and animal welfare standards. 

Our Core Standard and the auditing and assessment process we have developed over the last 10 years is key to ensuring that these facilities and the wider community are meeting the needs of each animal and allowing them to live a good life.”

If a zoo, aquarium, sanctuary or rescue centre is interested in Wild Welfare conducting an audit of their facility to help improve care practices and create positive welfare outcomes for the animals in their care, they can contact


Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact Wild Welfare at

For correspondence directly relating to the Core Standard paper, please contact

Wild Welfare is a global organisation committed to improving animal welfare for captive wild animals. By uniting the world’s leading zoos, zoo associations and animal welfare organisations, we build trusting partnerships that help provide long-term solutions to critical wild animal welfare issues.

Our vision is to end the suffering of captive wild animals around the world and ensure full and sustainable protection is given to all animals in human care. Find out more at Registered charity in England (no.1165941).