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The Human-Animal Bond

The Human-Animal Bond

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The Human-Animal Bond

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  1. The Human-Animal Bond CAPT Stephanie Ostrowski USPHS Veterinary Team

  2. The Human-Animal Bond The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Definition: • “A mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and other animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, other animals, and the environment. • The veterinarian’s role in the human-animal bond is to maximize the potentials of this relationship between people and other animals.”

  3. History of the Human-Animal Bond • Human-canine bond is one of the oldest relationships. • Domestication >12,000 years ago • Transition from working companion to pet between 600 to 1300 AD • Evidence of human-feline bonds 9,500 years ago. • Farm animal domestication 10,000 years ago. Htpp://

  4. Family Pets = Family Members • 62% of US households have at least one pet(AVMA 2002) • Children are more likely to have pets than siblings or fathers(Melson, 2001) • More than 75% of owners say dog’s health is as important to them as their own(Pfizer Animal Health/Gallup survey) • 57% would prefer their pet as their only companion if they were stranded on a desert island(2001 APPMA pet owner survey) • 52% are better at remembering the names of neighbor’s pets than human neighbors(2001 AAHA survey) • A scientifically established link exists between how people treat animals and how they treat each other

  5. Functions in Modern Society • Assistance animals • Helpers (i.e. hearing, sight, seizure detection) • Visitation • Therapy programs (physical, mental, skill-building)

  6. Animals as Partners in Work • Search and rescue dogs • Bomb detection dogs • Police dogs • Police horses

  7. Alan Beck wrote: It is the "loving devotion, the soft touch, the constant companionship and the attentive eye, and the uncritical ear of the pet" that is so attractive to many of us. Pets are uncritically accepting, give love completely and openly, and are loyal at all times under all circumstances. The affection provided by an animal is simple, unconditional, and uncomplicated. Pets are playmates for persons of any age group, provide the security of companionship and are frequently a confidant. These comforting and healing qualities enable animals to be facilitators in therapy (Cornell Companions).

  8. Benefits to Humans: Pets as Healers • Pet owners have: • Lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol • Increased survival after heart attack • Stress reduction • Weight control • Fewer minor health problems • Alzheimer’s patients allowed to observe fish demonstrated improved relaxation, alertness, and eating habits • Positive impact on the lonely, emotionally or physically impaired

  9. Benefits to Humans: Childhood Development • Pets: • Provide a sense of security and self-esteem • Facilitate play, exploration, independence • Facilitate an understanding of life events and life-changing events • Promote responsibility, nurturing, loyalty, empathy, sharing, and unconditional love • Animals in classrooms: • Motivate students to work well • Improve behavior • Provide care-giving opportunities important to psychological development

  10. Benefits to Humans: Pets and the Elderly • Pets: • Provide companionship and support during bereavement • Increase levels of activity • Improve person-to-person interactions • Ease loss in natural disasters • Transcend sensory deficits, mental changes, mobility restrictions that can impede human-human relationships • When moving to residential care, there are significant benefits when elderly persons keep their pets

  11. Pet owners and rescue groups feel an acute sense of urgency about getting animals out of harm’s way.

  12. Pet-owning households are significantly less likely to evacuate during mandatory orders.

  13. Animals and Disasters • A sense of personal responsibility to those entrusted to our care is a hallmark of emotionally and ethically mature human beings. • Owners are loyal to the animals they love, and will risk personal injury to protect them. • Studies indicate that pet-owning households are significantly less likely to evacuate during mandatory orders than households without pets; the more pets, the less likely household will evacuate. (AJE 2001 153:659-665)

  14. Animals and People During Disasters-- Evacuation Phase • Pets may be the only daily companions for elderly and special needs populations, and occupy the role of physical and emotional care-givers for these people. • Leaving animals behind during routine evacuations creates stress and anxiety for pet owners and family members. • Mandatory evacuations that do not include provisions for pets may cause: • resistance and conflict between rescuers and evacuees, • acute emotional distress for pet owners (separation anxiety, guilt, feelings of wrongful loss and powerlessness). • Therefore, joint owner-pet evacuations should be facilitated to the extent possible.

  15. Rescuing and caring for animals are normalizing experiences for people who have suffered loss and displacement.

  16. Protecting those we love = empowerment!

  17. Protecting those we love = empowerment Pet owners and rescue groups feel an acute sense of urgency about getting animals out of harm’s way. • Rescuing and sheltering evacuated animals provides a sense of competency, empowerment, and recovery in the face of disaster. • Being prevented from rescuing and caring for animals can generate intense frustration and resentment.

  18. References • Center for the Human – Animal Bond. Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. • Melson, GF. Why the wild things are: Animals in the lives of children. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press. 2001. • Human Society of the United States. • American Veterinary Medical Association. • Beck, Alan. Director, Center for the Human-Animal Bond, Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. • •