Dr Charlotte Burn
Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences
Research Groups: Animal Welfare Science and Ethics, Brain Health and Behaviour, CPCS (Research Programme)
Clinical Groups: Small Animal Behaviour, Farm Animal Health
Research Centres: RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics
Charlotte is the Associate Professor (Reader) in Animal Welfare and Behaviour Science, Leader of the BSc in 'Animal Biology, Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics', and Deputy Head of the Animal Welfare Science and Ethics group. She is a biologist and her research interests include the mechanisms and motivations behind animal behaviour, animal perceptual abilities, and how to make concrete improvements to animal welfare. She is a trustee of the BVA's Animal Welfare Foundation charity, and the RVC's Local Network Lead for the UK Reproducibility Network aiming to increase the robustness and validity of scientific practice.
Charlotte joined the Royal Veterinary College as a Research Fellow in December 2008, became a Lecturer in October 2010, a Senior Lecturer in 2015, and Associate Professor in 2020. In 2014 she became Deputy Head of group, and Course Director of a new BSc entitled 'Biological Sciences (Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics)'.
Charlotte's background is in biology, having gained a B.A. in Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford in 1999, and specialising via an M.Sc. in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare from the University of Edinburgh in 2001.
Her D.Phil. on laboratory rat welfare, awarded in 2006, was at the University of Oxford in the Department of Zoology, where she was supervised by Prof. Georgia Mason. Following that, she was a post-doctoral researcher investigating working equine welfare at the University of Bristol in the animal welfare research group, led by Dr Helen (Becky) Whay.
You can find out more about Charlotte's research at her webpage, here. Charlotte's published discoveries are summarised in a nutshell here.
Animal welfare is about animal mental health as well as physical health, and it is important that any animal welfare improvements are based on objective evidence, rather than just our assumptions about what animals want or need.
Charlotte's current research projects involve investigating fundamental questions about animal capacities for emotional experience, and practical ways to improve welfare in animals whose quality of life is compromised by how they have been bred, or by their environment or husbandry. She uses a multidisciplinary approach to investigating animal welfare, employing a range of statistical and epidemiological techniques to analyse behavioural and physiological data. In 2012 The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) awarded her their early career prize for her 'innovative approaches' to animal welfare research.
Her PhD and other post-graduate students are currently researching animal 'boredom' and the importance of environmental enrichment. She has also supervised and co-supervised PhD students working on refinement of laboratory animal husbandry, improving animal welfare assessments, dairy cow welfare, and many aspects of dog welfare from behaviour to inherited diseases.
Charlotte's previous research has investigated the welfare of horses and donkeys that work in developing countries (funded by the Brooke Hospital for animals), and the welfare of laboratory rats (funded through the Animal Procedures Committee of the Home Office). Her smaller projects have investigated invertebrate sentience, captive wild animal welfare, companion rabbit welfare, and coping styles and aggression in farmed pigs.
DANCER, A.M.M., DÍEZ-LEÓN, M., BIZLEY, J.K. & BURN, C.C. (2022). Pet Owner Perception of Ferret Boredom and Consequences for Housing, Husbandry, and Environmental Enrichment. Animals, 12, 3262.
CRUMP, A., BROWNING, H., SCHNELL, A., BURN, C. & BIRCH, J. (2022) Invertebrate sentience and sustainable seafood. Nature Food https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-022-00632-6
CRUMP, A., BROWNING, H., SCHNELL, A., BURN, C. & BIRCH, J. (2022) Sentience in decapod crustaceans: A general framework and review of the evidence. Animal Sentience 7: 1
DANCER, A.M.M., DÍEZ-LEÓN, M., BIZLEY, J.K. & BURN, C.C. (2022) Housing and Environmental Enrichment of the Domestic Ferret: A Multi-Sector Survey. Animals 12: 1065
BURN, C.C. & POPAT R. (2021) A tunnel is not enough: mice benefit from in-cage provision of a communal shelter as well as a handling tunnel. Animal Technology & Welfare 20: 203-210
BIRCH J., BURN C., SCHNELL A., BROWNING H. & CRUMP A. (2021) Defra Commissioned Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans. LSE Consulting, London
COLLINS, S., BURN, C.C., WATHES, C.M., CARDWELL, J.M., CHANG, Y.-M.R, & BELL N.J. (2021) Time-consuming, but necessary: a wide range of measures should be included in welfare assessments for dairy herds. Frontiers in Animal Science .2: 703380
BURN, C.C., MAZLAN, N.H.B., CHANCELLOR, N., WELLS, D.J. (2021) The pen is milder than the blade: identification marking mice using ink on the tail appears more humane than ear-punching even with local anaesthetic. Animals 11: 1664
LOPEZ-SALESANSKY, N., WELLS, D.J., CHANCELLOR, N., WHITFIELD, L., & BURN, C.C. (2021) Handling mice using gloves sprayed with alcohol-based hand sanitiser: acute effects on mouse behaviour. Animal Technology & Welfare 20: 11-20
BURN CC & SHIELDS P (2020). Do rabbits need each other? Effects of single versus paired housing on rabbit body temperature and behaviour in a UK shelter. Animal Welfare 29: 209-219
BURN CC, RAFFLE J & BIZLEY JK (2020) Does ‘playtime’ reduce stimulus-seeking and other boredom-like behaviour in laboratory ferrets? Animal Welfare 29: 19-26
JOHNSON JC & BURN CC (2019) Lop-eared rabbits have more aural and dental problems than erect-eared rabbits: a rescue population study. Veterinary Record 185: 758
DANCER, A. M. M. & BURN, C. C. (2019). Visitor effects on zoo-housed Sulawesi crested macaque (Macaca nigra) behaviour: can signs with ‘watching eyes’ requesting quietness help? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 211: 88-94
JOHNSON, K. F., CHANCELLOR, N., BURN, C. C. & WATHES, D. C. (2018) Analysis of pre-weaning feeding policies and other risk factors influencing growth rates of calves on eleven commercial dairy farms. Animal 12: 1413-1423
JOHNSON, K. F., CHANCELLOR, N., BURN, C. C. & WATHES, D. C. (2017) Prospective cohort study to assess rates of contagious disease in pre-weaned UK dairy heifers: management practices, passive transfer of immunity and associated calf health. Veterinary Record Open 4: e000226
BURN, C. C. (2017) Bestial boredom: a biological perspective on animal boredom and suggestions for its scientific investigation. Animal Behaviour 130: 141-151 doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.06.006 [Published article]
LOPEZ-SALESANSKY, N., MAZLAN, N.H., WELLS, D.J., WHITFIELD, L., & BURN, C.C. (2016) Olfactory variation in mouse husbandry and its implications for refinement and standardisation: UK survey of animal scents. Laboratory Animals 50: 362-369 doi: 10.1177/0023677215622883
LOPEZ-SALESANSKY, N., MAZLAN, N.H., WELLS, D.J., WHITFIELD, L., & BURN, C.C. (2016) Olfactory variation in mouse husbandry and its implications for refinement and standardisation: UK survey of non-animal scents. Laboratory Animals 50: 286-295 doi: 10.1177/0023677215614296
DUGGAN, G., BURN, C.C., & CLAUSS, M. (2016) Nocturnal behavior in captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) – a pilot study. Zoo Biology 35: 14-18 doi: 10.1002/zoo.21248
COLLINS, S., BURN, C. C., CARDWELL, J. M. & BELL, N. J. (2015). Evaluating the concept of iceberg indicators for on-farm welfare assessment of dairy cattle by farmers. Cattle Practice 23: 300-301.
PACKER, R.M.A., HENDRICKS, A., & BURN, C.C. (2015) Impact of facial conformation on canine health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLoS ONE 10: e0137496 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123827
PACKER, R.M.A., HENDRICKS, A., & BURN, C.C. (2015) Impact of facial conformation on canine health: Corneal ulceration. PLoS ONE e0123827 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0123827?
REIX (nee BROSTER), C.E., DIXIT, A., HOCKENHULL, A., PARKER, R.M.A., BANERJEE, A., BURN, C.C., PRITCHARD, J.C. & WHAY, H.R. (2015) A two-year participatory intervention project with owners to reduce lameness and limb abnormalities in working horses in Jaipur, India. PLoS ONE e0124342 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124342
HAWKINS, P., BERDOY, M., BURN, C., BURSNALL, D., CRUDEN, J., MCCORMICK, W., MILLER, A., PROCTOR, H., WHITTAKER, D., JENNINGS, M., HUBRECHT, R., (2015). Report of the 2014 RSPCA/UFAW Rodent Welfare Group meeting. Animal Technology and Welfare 14: 19-28
BUCKLAND, E.L, VOLK, H.A., BURN, C.C. & ABEYESINGHE S.M. (2014) Owner perceptions of companion dog expressions of positive emotional states and the contexts in which they occur. Animal Welfare 23: 287-296 http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/09627218.104.22.1687
REIX (nee BROSTER), C.E., BURN, C.C., PRITCHARD, J.C., BARR, A.R.S., & WHAY, H.R. (2014) The range and prevalence of clinical signs and conformation associated with lameness in working draught donkeys in Pakistan. Equine Veterinary Journal. 46: 771-777 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/evj.12231
MAZLAN, N.H., LOPEZ-SALESANKSY, N., BURN, C.C., & WELLS D.J. (2014) Mouse identification methods and potential welfare issues: a survey of current practice in the UK. Animal Technology and Welfare 13: 1-10 [pdf]
*Mazlan et al. (2014) was awarded the 2014 Majorie (Sandiford) Whittingham Journal Article prize*
PACKER, R.M.A., HENDRICKS, A., & BURN, C.C. (2014) Conference Report: Building Better Brachycephalics 2013. The Royal Veterinary College, North Mymms. pp. 1-36
FLEMING, M., & BURN, C.C. (2014) Behavioural assessment of dental pain in captive Malayan Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus). Animal Welfare 23: 131-140 http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/09627222.214.171.124
PACKER, R.M.A., HENDRICKS, A., SHIHAB, N., VOLK, H. & BURN, C.C. (2013) How long and low can you go? Effect of conformation on the risk of thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion in domestic dogs. PLOS ONE 8: e69650 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069650 and press release
MASON G.J., BURN C.C., DALLAIRE J.A., KROSHKO J., MCDONALD KINKAID H. & JESCHKE J.M. (2013) Plastic animals in cages: Behavioural flexibility and responses to captivity. Animal Behaviour 85: 1113-1126 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.02.002
RUTHERFORD, L., WESSMANN, A., RUSBRIDGE, C., MCGONNELL, I.M., ABEYESINGHE, S., BURN, C.C., & VOLK, H. (2012) Questionnaire-based behaviour analysis of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with neuropathic pain due to Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. The Veterinary Journal 194: 294–298
PACKER, R.M.A., HENDRICKS, A. & BURN, C.C. (2012) Do dog owners recognise clinical signs related to a conformational inherited disorder that is 'normal for the breed'? A potential constraint to improving canine welfare. Animal Welfare 21(S1): 81-93 http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/096272812X13345905673809 and press release
JOHNSON, K.F., BURN, C.C. & WATHES, D.C. (2011) Rates and risk factors for contagious disease and mortality in young dairy heifers. CAB Reviews 6(59): 1-10 [Book Preview]
BURN, C.C. (2011) A vicious cycle: a cross-sectional study of canine tail-chasing and human responses to it, using a free video-sharing website. PLOS ONE 6: e26553 http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026553 and press release
*The Burn (2011) study on canine tail chasing was featured as part of the Ig Nobel Awards Tour, London 2013*
HAWKINS, P., BURN, C.C., HURST, J., BURMAN, O., VAN LOO, P., LEACH, M., MACONOCHIE, M., DENNISON, N., JENNINGS, M., & HUBRECHT, R. (2011) Report of the 2010 RSPCA/UFAW Rodent Welfare Group meeting – the effects of husbandry on welfare and promoting good practice. Animal Technology and Welfare 2011: 105-113 [pdf]
BURN, C.C., & WEIR, A.A.S. (2011) Using prevalence indices to aid interpretation and comparison of agreement ratings between two or more observers. The Veterinary Journal 188: 166-170 dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2010.04.021 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C., DENNISON, T.L., & WHAY, H.R. (2010) Environmental and demographic risk factors for poor welfare in working horses, donkeys and mules in developing countries. The Veterinary Journal 186: 385-392 dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2009.09.016
BURN, C.C., DENNISON, T.L., & WHAY, H.R. (2010) Relationships between behaviour and health in working horses, donkeys, and mules in developing countries. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 126: 109-118 dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2010.06.007 or [pdf]
PRITCHARD, J.C., BURN, C.C., & WHAY, H.R. (2009) Haematological and serum biochemical reference values for apparently healthy working horses in Pakistan. Research in Veterinary Science 87: 389-395 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rvsc.2009.05.003
BURN, C.C., PRITCHARD, J.C., & WHAY, H.R. (2009) Observer reliability for working equine welfare assessment: Problems with high prevalences of certain results. Animal Welfare 18: 177-187 [pdf]
BROSTER, C.E., BURN, C.C., BARR, A.R.S., & WHAY, H.R. (2009) The range and prevalence of pathological abnormalities associated with lameness in working horses from developing countries. Equine Veterinary Journal. 41: 474-481 http://dx.doi.org/10.2746/042516409X373907 or [pdf]
PRITCHARD, J.C., BURN, C.C., BARR, A.R.S., & WHAY, H.R. (2008) Validity of indicators of dehydration in working horses: a longitudinal study of changes in skin tent duration, mucous membrane dryness and drinking behaviour Equine Veterinary Journal 40: 558-564. PubMed ID 18356129 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C., PRITCHARD, J.C., FARAJAT, M., TWAISSI, A.A. M. & WHAY, H.R. (2008) Risk factors for strap-related lesions in working donkeys at the World Heritage site of Petra in Jordan. The Veterinary Journal 178: 261–269. PubMed ID 17869139 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C. (2008) What is it like to be a rat? Rat sensory perception and its implications for experimental design and rat welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 112: 1-32 http://dx.doi.org/j.applanim.2008.02.007 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C. & MASON, G.J. (2008) Effects of cage-cleaning frequency on laboratory rat reproduction, cannibalism, and welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 114: 235–247 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2008.02.005 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C. & MASON, G.J. (2008) Rats seem indifferent between their own scent-marked homecages and clean cages. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 115: 201–210 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2008.06.002 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C., DEACON, R.M.J. & MASON G.J. (2008) Marked for life? Effects of early cage cleaning frequency, delivery batch and identification tail-marking on adult rat anxiety profiles. Developmental Psychobiology 50: 266-277 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.20279
BURN, C.C., DAY, M.J., PETERS, A. & MASON, G.J. (2006) Long-term effects of cage-cleaning frequency and bedding type on laboratory rat health, welfare, and handleability: a cross-laboratory study. Laboratory Animals, 40: 353-370 http://dx.doi.org/10.1258/002367706778476460 or [pdf]
BURN, C.C., PETERS, A. & MASON, G.J. (2006) Acute effects of cage-cleaning at different frequencies on laboratory rat behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare, 15: 161-172 [pdf]
HAWKINS, P., NICHOLSON, J., BURN, C.C., et al. (2005) Report of the 2004 RSPCA/UFAW Rodent Welfare Group meeting. Animal Technology and Welfare 4: 79-89
BURN, C.C. & MASON, G.J. (2005) Absorbencies of six different rodent beddings: commercially advertised absorbencies are potentially misleading. Laboratory Animals, 39: 68-74 http://dx.doi.org/10.1258/0023677052886592 or [pdf]
D'EATH, R.B. & BURN, C.C. (2002) Individual differences in behaviour: A test of 'coping style' does not predict resident-intruder aggressiveness in pigs. Behaviour, 139: 1175-1194 http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685390260437326
Charlotte Burn is the Leader of our BSc in Biological Sciences (Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics) pathway.
She also teaches on the Veterinary Nursing degree, the Bioveterinary Medicine degree, and the MSc in Wild Animal Biology and Health. She supervises undergraduate and MSc projects in animal behaviour and welfare covering species from reptiles to rabbits, dormice to dogs, and sunbears to Sulawesi macaques.
She has a Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Education and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Are lop-eared rabbits more predisposed to dental and ear diseases than erect-eared rabbits?
People: Maria Jackson, Charlotte Burn, David Brodbelt, Joanna Hedley, Dan O'Neill
Vet Compass Project Type: Rabbit
We aim to deepen understanding of the animal welfare impacts of dental and ear disease in rabbits, and to identify breed related risk factors for these. We plan to use the new information to improve rabbit welfare by raising awareness of any dental and ear health implications from selecting for rabbit with extreme morphology.
Assessing and Improving Animal Welfare
Genetics and management can greatly affect the welfare of farm, laboratory, companion and wild animals. We aim to improve animal welfare by understanding how human activities and management practices affect the welfare of animals that are kept, killed or otherwise impacted by humans. Comparative research can identify practices that generally elicit poor or good welfare outcomes, providing evidence that can be used to support initiatives to improve animal welfare.
Development of welfare assessment protocols and technology
Assessment of animal welfare is continually being improved using new insights in animal behaviour, non-invasive physiological methods, animal-environment interactions, and novel monitoring systems for animal responses and behaviours.
Some of our work aims to develop a more fundamental understanding of which measures (e.g. behaviour, activity, posture etc) should most appropriately be targeted with sensor technology. However, technology is not always feasible (or even desirable) in some sectors, so we develop welfare assessments that are valid and practical in whatever context they are needed and tailored to the specific welfare aim.
Do lop-eared rabbits have more dental and aural disease than erect-eared rabbits?
Initial evidence has shown that rabbits with artificially selected extreme morphological traits of lop ears and brachycephaly experience reduced welfare through a higher prevalence of painful ear and teeth problems, a cause for concern as lops and dwarves are the most popular pet rabbit breeds in the UK. This study aims to determine the prevalence of these diseases in UK pet rabbits using VetCompass data that represents approximately 30% of UK practices.
Ethics of animal use and management
Animal welfare issues often arise when there are conflicts of interest between humans and animals. This poses challenges around whose interests to prioritise, and what actions can be taken to produce the best moral outcome. The needs and wants of human, animal, and even environmental stakeholders must be understood and evaluated to decide what is the right course of action, but different ethicists and stakeholders may disagree about the conclusions of any ethical analysis. For example, unnecessary suffering must not be caused to legally protected animals, but what counts as ‘suffering’, when is it really ‘necessary’, and which animals should be protected? Evidence must be gathered and some consensus must be agreed upon as to weight the different possible actions.
Fundamental understanding of welfare
Animal welfare refers to animal feelings, health, and environmental suitability. These projects explore which animals are sentient and what feelings they have, and how behaviour, health, environments, and welfare interrelate. We use a wide range of techniques to investigate these fundamental questions, each of which is tailored to the particular hypothesis and species involved. Emotions are subjective (private) to the individual experiencing them, which makes them challenging to investigate scientifically.