Developing and evaluating SPCA interventions

A number of our projects and studies involve collaborating with the Scottish SPCA and the RSPCA to develop and evaluate interventions that support animal welfare education and the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Our Projects:

SSPCA Animal Guardians Evaluation

Animal Guardians was launched in Summer 2018 by the Scottish SPCA to provide an an intervention for children who have harmed animals or are at high risk of doing so. Our Animal Guardians evaluation aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention and is the first systematic assessment of an intervention programme for childhood animal cruelty. As part of this project, we completed qualitative interview work with children and provided an initial evaluation to the Scottish SPCA. We are currently running an ongoing formal evaluation study to further assess the effectiveness of the intervention. 

The Animal Guardians intervention is a free education programme delivered by the Scottish SPCA for children who have been referred for showing concerning behaviours towards animals. The programme is delivered to children individually over a series of sessions which use adaptable games, activities, and discussion to help children nurture empathy and compassionate behaviour towards animals. The intervention is focused on teaching children about: 

  • animal sentience
  • animal welfare needs
  • responsibilities and positive interactions with animals

Our initial evaluation of the Animal Guardians programme indicates that children who completed the intervention programme had significant improvements in:

  • their knowledge of animal welfare needs
  • their belief in animal sentience
  • recognition and understanding of human and animal emotions
  • empathetic responses to animals

The intervention is not only an opportunity to enhance animal welfare by reducing cases of future animal harm, but also to work with children on skills such as empathy, decision-making, and responsibility. This may have positive long-term impacts into adulthood. Animal abuse has been linked to domestic abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence, so addressing early animal harm in children may help reduce incidence of other forms of abuse in adulthood. 

Through our ongoing formal evaluation study, our research will continue to assess the effectiveness of the intervention, identity psychological risk and protective factors for animal harm, and develop tools for future assessment.

Funded by R.S Macdonald Charitable Trust.

RSPCA Breaking the Chain Evaluation

This collaborative project with the RSPCA is to re-design and evaluate Breaking the Chain, an intervention for young people who have harmed animals. The programme explores and tackles the issues surrounding young people and animal cruelty. Initially designed for young offenders convicted of animal welfare offenses, Breaking the Chain comprises of a range of online resources that can be delivered to young people by youth offender teams.

Our evaluation project involves re-designing and updating ‘Breaking the Chain’ through co-production methods with RSPCA staff, young people, and professionals who support young people.

The co-produced intervention will then be evaluated with a sample of young people to assess its effectiveness. Breaking the Chain will then be relaunched and implemented by the RSPCA across England and Wales. 

Funded by the RSPCA. 

Scottish SPCA Prevention Through Education Evaluation

This project was to evaluate the Scottish SPCA Prevention Through Education Workshops, delivered to 360,000 children annually.

The research had several components: 

  1. identity psychological risk and protective factors for animal harm  
  2. assess the effectiveness of the intervention, 
  3.  develop digital interventions that could be used in the broader programme

Following this work the Scottish SPCA developed their animal welfare education interventions further and re-branded their interventions under the umbrella of Animal Wise.

Funded by the Scottish SPCA. 

Scottish SPCA Pet Aid Development and Evaluation

This project comprises of two separate strands: the initial development of the SSPCA Pet Aid programme, and our ongoing evaluation of it. 


Our online survey 'Supporting People & Pets in Scotland' took place between Tuesday 18th May and Tuesday 22nd June 2021.

The aims of the study were to identify: 

  • where support is most needed
  • the extent and types of challenges experienced
  • the impact of these challenges on owners and their families
  • which support/services have been accessed and if they were helpful
  • the type of support that pet owners feel would be most useful to them
  • issues involved when deciding to give up a pet

The findings have been used to develop the Scottish SPCA Pet Aid programme to support people and pets in need. 

Funded by the Scottish SPCA and Blue Cross.


This project is to work with the Scottish SPCA to evaluate the impact of their new Pet Aid programme. Pet Aid encompasses a range of services, including a food service, a veterinary care service, and a behavioural support service.

​​​​​This project will involve three steps: 

  1. Qualitative interviews with service users and service providers 
  2. Short feedback questionnaire-based survey of service-users 
  3. Development of an evaluation toolkit for continuous evaluation data collection  

Funded by RS Macdonald Trust.