Lee Niel

Lee Niel

Col KL Campbell Chair in Companion Animal Welfare | Associate Professor

BSc (Simon Fraser University), PhD (UBC)
 Office: Stewart Bldg. 2526
 519-824-4120 Ext. 53030

 Lab: Stewart Bldg. 2517

Lee Niel

Col KL Campbell Chair in Companion Animal Welfare   |   Associate Professor   |   BSc (Simon Fraser University), PhD (UBC)


I joined the Ontario Veterinary College in 2010, and I hold the Col KL Campbell Chair in Companion Animal Welfare. My current research and teaching are focused on the behaviour and welfare of companion animals. I am a behavioural biologist with training in animal behaviour, animal welfare and behavioural neuroscience, and I have expertise with both laboratory and companion animals. Most of my current research is focused on understanding and preventing fear and aggression in cats, dogs and rabbits, but I am also interested in a variety of other topics, as described further below. And for more information about my research program please see my Niel Lab Webpage.

Research Interests

Our current research is mainly focused on investigating factors that influence the expression of fear and aggression in companion species, including dogs, cats and rabbits.  We conduct both fundamental research aimed at understanding the development and maintenance of fear and aggression, and applied research examining strategies for prevention and treatment.  Ongoing research on this topic includes:

  • Development of fear and aggression: We are conducting longitudinal studies following animals from birth through adoption and into adulthood to examine interactions between temperament, experiences during early rearing (e.g., maternal behaviour, socialization, management of feeding and play), and experiences following adoption (e.g., enrichment, training methods).
  • Identification of fear and aggression: We are conducting behaviours tests to determine which behavioural and physiological measures are valid and reliable indicators of fear and aggression at different life stages (e.g., puppies/kittens, adult animals) and in different contexts (e.g., general, during handling).  We are also looking at whether owners are able to recognize and properly interpret these behaviours in terms of fear and aggression.
  • Reducing fear and aggression during veterinary care: We are examining a variety of strategies for reducing stress in animals during routine veterinary handling and procedures.


Other ongoing research is focused on key welfare issues relevant to companion species:

  • Identification of cat affective states based on facial expressions (with Dr. Georgia Mason, Animal Biosciences)
  • Welfare impacts of uncontrolled outdoor access for cats
  • Effects of chronic pain on cognitive abilities in dogs (with Dr. Mark Hurtig, Clinical Studies)
  • Risk factors for scratching and declawing in companion cats 

Current Graduate Students

  • Kristina O'Hanley - PhD

Former Graduate Students

PhD Students:

Jacquelyn Jacobs - currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Michigan state Univeristy

Lauren Dawson - currently a Postdoctoral Researcher with Dr. Stephanie Torrey at University of Guelph

Hannah Flint - currently a Senior Research Scientist at Waltham Petcare UK

Carly Moody - currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor at University of California Davis

Anastasia Stellato - has accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University starting in Spring 2021


  • Lectures and labs in various DVM courses in relation to companion animal behaviour and welfare, behaviour and physiology, and behavioural genetics
  • Course Co-coordinator for Health Management II VETM*3410
  • Mentor for clinical skills review related to companion animal behaviour and welfare for the Phase 4 Small Animal Primary Care Rotation

Professional Experience & Honours

Member of the Toronto Zoo Animal Care and Research Committee

Member of the CCAC Subcommittee for Hamsters, Gerbils, and Guinea Pigs


Selected Publications

Link to google scholar profile: