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Research path altered by dog called Snuffie

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 10:39am

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Associate Professor Neil Carr with his current dog, Gypsy. Photo: Graham Warman.

Fifteen years ago Associate Professor Neil Carr’s personal and academic life was altered forever when he purchased a black and white dog called Snuffie.

While it sounds a small move, the Head of Otago’s Department of Tourism came to realise that dog ownership has a major impact on where and how people spend their free time. For an academic specialising in leisure and tourism behaviour this opened up an entire avenue for investigation.

“I recognised that in Queensland, where I was living at the time, I could not take her wherever I wanted to,” he explains. “From there, things have snowballed to look at animals as conscious beings, zoos, domesticated animals, animal welfare and rights and bears.”

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The cover of Associate Professor Neil Carr's latest book, Domestic Animals and Leisure.

Associate Professor Carr has recently edited a book looking at Domestic Animals and Leisure, which follows on from a book he wrote last year Dogs in the Leisure Experience.

“The domesticated animals book is a collection of chapters from researchers from around the world, focused mainly on dogs and horses,” he explains. “The chapters deal with issues surrounding the welfare of animals as they are used within human leisure experiences.

“The dogs and leisure book is of course more tightly focused on only one animal type which gives space to examine the myriad ways it exists in human leisure, from companion to tool of leisure, to consumed product. It looks at everything – dog walking, dogs in sport (especially greyhound racing and sled racing), dogs and tourism, dogs as cuisine, etc.”

Associate Professor Carr says as a dog owner himself, many of the messages within the two books ring true, and there is plenty for both an academic and non-academic audience to think about.

"It is also necessary for owners to balance those needs within the realisation that these animals live within a human society and therefore the owners must ensure they do so in a harmonious manner."

“Animals are conscious beings, but at the same time they are not furry humans,” he says “We can, and should, look to understand them even if that understanding will always be imperfect. They have rights and welfare needs and it is beholden of owners to do all they can to meet those needs. It is also necessary for owners to balance those needs within the realisation that these animals live within a human society and therefore the owners must ensure they do so in a harmonious manner.”

Alongside his work on animals, Associate Professor Carr’s research encompasses a wide range of other interests focused around leisure and tourism behaviour. They include the role of leisure and tourism in personal identity formation, and the leisure and tourism experiences of young people, children, university students and families. In addition, he has conducted research on visitor safety and education, risk taking and perception of risk and the position and nature of sex and the sexual in the leisure experience.

Associate Professor Carr has been at Otago since 2004. His current dog Gypsy is seven years old.