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Jen Sadler excels in anthrozoology study

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3 December 2020

Jen Sadler, Teaching Assistant in the Veterinary Health & Animal Sciences department, has been awarded a Distinction and Dean’s Commendation for her Masters in Anthrozoology from the University of Exeter.

Jen began her higher educational journey at Harper Adams, studying BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Science and graduated in 2013. She then returned as a member of staff and has been working for the university for six years.

Jen said: “As a student I loved every aspect of Harper, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to return as a member of staff.

“I teach on a range of modules providing up-to-date and best practice guidance on companion animal management, health, welfare and ethics.”

Alongside her teaching work, Jen supervises the University's collection of companion animals which help students to learn about husbandry and handling techniques for a range of small mammal and exotic species. 

Talking about her job, Jen said: “One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is seeing students’ confidence grow in these practical skills that they will use in their everyday careers, ultimately becoming highly competent professionals.”

Jen returned to education to explore her interest in the ways people value and interact with different animals. Anthrozoology studies the relationship between humans and animals - the ideal course for Jen to pursue her interests.

When talking about her Master’s, Jen commented: “This was a distance learning course delivered online, which gave me the flexibility to fit studying around my job role.

“This has also given me the unexpected but beneficial insight to the current experience of our students who are accessing recorded lectures and, at times, virtual tutorials due to the pandemic.”

Seeing the success of her dissertation study celebrated by the University of Exeter, as well as by her colleagues at Harper Adams, Jen shared about her thesis: “As part of the course, I completed a 16,000 word dissertation on ‘The Effect of Farmer-Working Dog Attachment on Farmer Mental Wellbeing and Canine Welfare: A One Welfare Approach’.

“Many farming practices would be inefficient or unfeasible without the aid of a working dog. Even with the support of a dog, many farmers are under high levels of financial, social and psychological pressure and stress.

“Whilst we know there can be health benefits associated with owning pet dogs, there had not been any research to explore whether these benefits extend to farmers who have working dogs. This study therefore aimed to determine whether strength of farmer-working dog attachment was associated with farmer mental wellbeing. 

“Data was collected through an online questionnaire which received over 200 responses. Although no quantitative relationship between the strength of farmer-working dog attachment and farmer mental wellbeing was found, the majority of farmers surveyed placed high value on the role their dogs played on their mental health. Working farm dogs act as a source of happiness, companionship, stability, purpose and as a confidante for many farmers.

“The study revealed complex farmer-working dog relationships that transgress flexibly and acutely across a spectrum of worker to companion. This research may be used to raise awareness to those working to support farmers’ mental wellbeing that farm dogs could be incorporated into mental health coping strategies.”

Having now completed her Master’s, Jen is looking to the future: “From the encouragement of tutors and colleagues, I’m currently working on submitting my dissertation for journal publication so that it can be shared more widely.

“Once visiting restrictions are eased, I also hope to register my dog and cat as therapy animals to visit local residential care homes.”

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