"The best part of it was the insight into how my coworkers think."

Lead Keeper

27 yrs experience

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Are you an animal care professional who is interested in experiencing WelfareTrak®? Click here to request free access to the WelfareTrak® Demo Site. Our Demo Site will allow you to complete welfare surveys and view welfare reports!

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WelfareTrak® Overview

WelfareTrak®, created by the Chicago Zoological Society’s Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare, is a user-friendly welfare monitoring tool that integrates the knowledge, skills and expertise of animal caretakers. WelfareTrak® allows caretakers to be the “voices” for the animals under their care.
WelfareTrak’s online system gives caretakers the opportunity to complete brief, species-specific welfare surveys for individual animals on a weekly basis. Caretakers also can document Special Events that may impact welfare scores. The system then generates reports that graph the caretakers’ scores and “flag” potential shifts in welfare status. 
WelfareTrak® is for internal use ONLY. The caretakers for a particular species, at a particular institution, can use this management tool to monitor the welfare of individual animals over time. WelfareTrak® is not designed to compare individuals across – or even within – institutions. Therefore, the information that you enter about the animals under your care will not be shared with others.

What are the Benefits of Using WelfareTrak®?

We tested WelfareTrak’s resources with nearly 50 animal care professionals representing 5 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Over a 1-year period of testing, these animal care professionals (zookeepers, animal care managers, veterinarians and researchers) reported that they used welfare reports to:
  1. proactively identify welfare issues
  2. evaluate the success of efforts to improve individual animal welfare
  3. promote discussion within workgroups
  4. gain insight into whether individual animals prefer particular conditions, events or practices 
Please visit our User Testimonials page to view comments from WelfareTrak® users.
Here are a few examples of how animal care professionals have used WelfareTrak® to monitor individual animals: 


“Oscar Okapi was doing some pacing and got fixated in one corner of the pen - this was discussed sooner than it would have been. We gave him access to another pen… he did stop pacing once there. He had a lot to investigate in the new pen.”

“Oliver Okapi was chewing on certain objects a lot. We noticed it increase on the reports… we brainstormed to figure out ideas to give him other things to chew on, to give him other activities… we discussed new enrichment.”

“Following the introduction of new enrichment structures, the gorillas’ interest in the environment increased noticeably. Visitors even heard their ‘content grumbles’ from the walkway. The WelfareTrak® scores reflected this.” 

“We tried to give the gorillas access to more areas – to allow them to spend time in an enclosure that they hadn’t been in for awhile, or to give them overnight access to certain areas. We saw scores improve in response to some of this increased access.”

“We pulled our older female leopard gecko from all education programs because we noticed an overall decrease in her welfare scores after being used in programs.”

How are WelfareTrak® Welfare Surveys Created?

We recruit a panel of experts to create each species-specific WelfareTrak-certified survey. Each expert completes the Tool Development Questionnaire, allowing us to establish a consensus of opinion regarding the most useful welfare indicators (and definitions) for monitoring individual animal welfare for a particular species. Therefore, WelfareTrak-certified surveys have high content validity.
Welfare surveys are comprised of 10-15 items rated on a 5-point Likert scale and can be completed in just 2-3 minutes. Most welfare surveys include items that not only reflect the animal’s physical state (e.g. coat condition, physical condition), but also the animal’s mental or emotional state (e.g. attitude, calm-relaxed). Furthermore, many surveys include indicators of good, or even great, welfare. For instance, the item “produces content grumbles” can be found on the gorilla welfare surveys.

In 2007, we created welfare surveys for 12 species of mammals, birds and reptiles. For several welfare survey items, we found evidence that caretakers’ scores were associated with physiological and/or behavioral measures of individual animal welfare.
Please visit the Survey Library to view a list of existing WelfareTrak-certified surveys that are available for use.
If you are interested in monitoring a species that is not listed in the Survey Library, you can:
  1. Request CZS’ services. You can hire CZS to recruit experts to develop a WelfareTrak-certified survey for your species of interest. This option covers the first year of registration. As a bonus, if you choose to split this cost with other organizations, we include free first-year registration for up to 10 organizations. The new survey will be uploaded to the Survey Library.
  2. Create a customized survey. Our Tool Development Manual will walk you through the process of designing a new survey. Keep in mind that this customized survey can only be employed by your organization - it will not be incorporated into our Survey Library.

What Types of Welfare Reports are Generated by the WelfareTrak® System?

The WelfareTrak® system generates two types of reports for individual animals:

  • Trend Reports are graphs that clearly display patterns of scoring over time. Trend Reports include separate graphs for each welfare indicator (each Rater is represented by a unique color and symbol). You also can view Special Events associated with particular weeks!

  • Individual Well-Being Reports include separate tables for each welfare indicator and “flag” shifts in scores using symbols and banners. Green symbols and banners indicate a positive change OR scores moving in the “right” direction. Red symbols and banners indicate a negative change OR scores moving in the “wrong” direction. You also can view Special Events associated with particular weeks!