Published by Taylor & Francis
Online ISSN: 1753-0377
Print ISSN: 0892-7936
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Aims and scope

Anthrozoös studies the relationships between people and animals across areas as varied as anthropology, medicine, psychology, veterinary medicine and zoology.

Recent publications
Animal welfare legislation in Australia is influenced by “community expectations.” Given a major source of publicly available information on animal welfare law is that from media articles, it is likely the information discussed online could be influencing public opinion and consequently shaping animal welfare legislation reform efforts. This study examined the social media discourse in response to news articles on animal welfare law in Australia. A content analysis was applied to Facebook comments from posts originating from a formal news agency discussing animal cruelty and penalties over a 6-month period between 1 June 2019 to 1 December 2019. All posts were screened against eligibility criteria and imported into NVivo for inductive coding. A total of 24 Facebook posts with an accumulative 1,723 comments were coded and thematically analyzed. Six primary themes were generated from the analysis: (1) failure of the court system; (2) failure of the legislation; (3) failure of the government; (4) emotive reactions; (5) risk of violence; and (6) mistrust in the media. The social media discourse was scathing of the legal system, with a particular focus on failings of the animal welfare law justice system. It is likely that this type of discourse surrounding animal law enforcement could be playing an influential role over the “expectations” influencing animal welfare legislation reform in Australia.
Recent studies indicate a positive correlation between canine-assisted interventions and social and communicative abilities in people with autism. These benefits could be due to more efficient processing of socially informative areas when dog faces are processed. Using an eye tracker, this study aimed to assess the visual processing of faces in 13 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 13 neurotypical (NT) children when gazing at the faces of humans and of dogs. We divided the faces into two categories. First, individual faces of adult humans, children, and dogs were used in a free-viewing paradigm, where the area of interest was the eyes. We recorded the total time spent gazing at the eyes (dwell time), latency to the first look, and continuous gaze time. Second, pairs of faces were presented at the same time in a pair paradigm, and preferences in terms of face position (left/right) and type (dog/human), and the number of transitions between faces, were measured. When presented with pairs of faces, ASD children gazed for longer at the dog’s face, regardless of its position, and showed a higher number of shifts between pictures when the face of a dog was present. However, the NT group did not discriminate between the two faces. The results for individual faces showed significant differences in how ASD children look at the eyes of faces rather than differences in the total duration of the gaze; they are faster in terms of their first gaze and exhibit a longer average fixation time when gazing at the eyes of dogs compared with those of humans. Both human and dog faces were processed atypically in children with ASD, who seemed to engage with dogs more rapidly and for extended periods. This suggests possible socio-communicative benefits of human–dog interactions for people with autism, from a visual processing point of view.
People have kept companion animals for millennia, a tradition that implies mutual benefits due to its persistence; however, scientific investigations present mixed results. Some research suggests pet owners are less lonely than non-owners, but other findings suggest pet owners have higher psychological distress. Research comparing owners with non-owners is limited, and methodological inconsistencies need to be addressed. This study investigated social support and wellbeing (positive functioning) in cat and dog owners, informed by social support theory, attachment, and social exchange theories. It was hypothesized that (1) pet support would predict wellbeing in addition to human support and (2) at least one aspect of pet–owner relationship quality would influence the relationship between social support and wellbeing. An adult sample of 89 cat owners and 149 dog owners (n = 238; 205 females and 33 males) completed an online survey comprising a demographics questionnaire, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, the Cat/Dog–Owner Relationship Quality Scale, the Psychological Wellbeing Scale, and Satisfaction with Life Scale. Social support measures included some demographics on theoretical grounds to measure the construct multidimensionally. Hierarchical and multiple regressions were conducted, and results indicated that both hypotheses were supported: having more pets significantly predicted greater psychological wellbeing in addition to human social support. Unexpectedly, perceived pet support significantly, positively predicted life satisfaction when perceived emotional closeness with pet was low. These findings indicate that pets may improve psychological functioning and that emotional closeness is an important moderating factor. Practical implications include the social benefits of pets for those who could benefit from greater psychological functioning and improved life satisfaction.
Studies about charismatic bird species have been carried out using the general public; among the most common charismatic attributes are body mass and coloration. However, research on birders as a target population is lacking. Birders are people who identify bird species based on visual or acoustic cues. It is important to study this group directly because they invest a lot of time and effort in citizen science projects and donate money to the conservation of nature. Identifying charismatic species for birders can help to determine the optimal flagship species for this group. Because some studies show that preferences for certain species and their attributes may be dependent on the personal characteristics of the respondents, we decided to study the preferences of different types of birder (casual, intermediate, advanced). We surveyed 2,303 German birders and found advanced birders to prefer species with a lower body mass and less coloration/brightness, compared with casual and intermediate birders. Moreover, advanced birders prefer species that are difficult to detect: that is, nocturnal species, species with larger flight distances, species with smaller population sizes, and nonurban birds. Because birders differ from the public in species preferences, this should be taken into account when species are chosen for conservation purposes, initiating citizen science projects, or management plans.
Line drawings illustrating the cranial profiles of adult and infant humans and dogs (left to right: human, French bulldog, Chihuahua, Siberian husky; top to bottom: adult, infant). The two brachycephalic breeds (French bulldog, Chihuahua), although somewhat different in conformation, show a degree of infant-like lower-face reduction in adulthood as well as puppyhood.
Total number of online advertisements for each of the 30 most commonly advertised breeds.
Brachycephalic dog breeds have become increasingly popular in recent years, despite showing a high incidence of conformation-related disorders and early mortality. It has been suggested that this popularity might be explained by public perceptions of these short-muzzled dogs as looking particularly infant-like or “cute.” Here, the hypothesis that short-muzzled breeds are especially likely to be described as cute was investigated by analyzing the word contents of advertisements for dogs and puppies being sold online. The ages and breeds of dogs being advertised were considered, in addition to whether the text of each advertisement included the word “cute” or two associated words: “adorable” and “sweet.” Analyses of the entire sample of advertisements (n = 43,312) indicated that younger dogs were more likely to be advertised as “cute” and “adorable,” while older ones were more likely to be advertised as “sweet.” Short-muzzled, brachycephalic breeds (cranio-facial ratio < 0.5) were more likely to be advertised as “cute,” with brachycephalic puppies under 6 months of age being particularly likely to be called “cute” and also “adorable.” However, breed size had a larger and wider effect on word use in advertisements, with smaller dogs being advertised more frequently using all three words: “cute,” “adorable,” and “sweet.” When data for adult dogs only were considered (n = 11,400), and continuous muzzle shortening and age data were used, a somewhat different and more complex pattern of results were found. Use of the words “cute” and “adorable” were not associated with degree of muzzle shortening among these adult dogs, but “sweet” was used more often in advertisements for longer-muzzled breeds. We conclude that the present dataset provides partial support for the assertion that short-muzzled dogs are described as more “cute” than longer-muzzled ones, but that small size is a better predictor of the use of “cute” and its synonyms.
Scattergrams demonstrating the relationship between rider satisfaction and (A) relative horse welfare score (r = 0.29, p < 0.01), (B) horse ridden hyperreactive behavior (bucking, rearing, bolting, and spooking, r = −0.23, p < 0.01), (C) rider accidents and injuries (r = −0.16, p < 0.001), and (D) rider perception of control while riding (r = 0.49, p < 0.001).
Median relative welfare scores of least favorite and favorite horses. Higher welfare scores indicate better horse welfare. Circles and asterisks denote outliers in the sample.
Median rider perceived control of least favorite and favorite horses. Circles and asterisks denote outliers in the sample.
Management practices, medical conditions, and behavioral/other signals used to assess ridden-horse welfare (in alphabetical order) (adapted from Luke et al., 2022).
Spearman rank correlations between horse welfare, horse hyperreactive behavior, rider safety, rider perceived control, rider goal achievement, and overall rider satisfaction.
Securing the horse industry’s long-term future is becoming increasingly urgent due to community concerns for horse welfare; human behavior change may offer novel solutions to this challenging problem. Self-determination theory (SDT), a well-established theory in human behavior change, assumes humans are intrinsically motivated by three universal psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. These align well with horse–human interaction. To explore the potential for human behavior change to improve horse welfare, this study investigated the relationship between horse welfare, rider safety, and rider satisfaction. An online survey asked equestrians about their horse-keeping and training practices, their riding accidents and injuries, and their level of satisfaction with their horse. Relative horse welfare and rider satisfaction were significantly related (r = 0.34, p < 0.001). Hyperreactive horse behavior (defined in this study as bucking, bolting, rearing, and spooking) and rider accidents and injuries were negatively related to rider satisfaction (r = −0.23, p < 0.001 and r = −0.16, p = 0.001, respectively). Further, goal achievement (r = 0.57, p < 0.001), rider control (r = 0.49, p < 0.001), and horse–human partnership (r = 0.62, p < 0.001) were all significantly related to rider satisfaction. A regression analysis testing the proposed SDT-based rider satisfaction model was significant (p < 0.001), with goal achievement, rider control, and horse–human partnership accounting for 63% of the variance of rider satisfaction scores. We found that horse welfare, rider safety, and rider satisfaction were related, with equestrian goal achievement (competence), horse control (autonomy), and horse-rider partnership (relatedness) all significantly contributing to rider satisfaction, suggesting that SDT may offer a useful framework for developing behavior change strategies. While more work is needed to develop and evaluate such strategies, a better understanding of intrinsic rider motivation represents an important first step.
The present study gathered information about the characteristics of individuals and dogs in Emotional Support Animal (ESA) partnerships, instances of service-animal misrepresentation, animal welfare and behavior, dimensions of bond quality, and health professional involvement. Seventy-seven adults (53 female, 24 male) with a canine ESA were surveyed via Qualtrics panel services. Data were analyzed for descriptive data, as well as correlational analyses among variables. Participants reported high frequencies of misrepresentation of emotional support animals, access law violations, and problematic instances including ESAs with a history of aggression and times when participants were unable to care for their dog. The majority of participants reported mental illness diagnoses, seeking ESA documentation from mental health providers; however, levels of health professional involvement in the ESA-procuring process were varied. Several dimensions of bond quality between participants and their ESA were reported to be consistently high across participants. Correlational data brought forth questions about the roles that health professionals and animal welfare could play in preventing harm to clients, animals, and communities, discouraging unlawful and problematic behavior, and strengthening the human–animal bond between their clients and ESAs. For example, welfare concerns were correlated with problematic animal behaviors and perceived costs to the participants. Additionally, as professional involvement increased, so too did rates of misrepresentation of ESAs as service animals and access law violations. These data provide a first picture of ESA partnerships and can be a springboard for future research toward protecting individuals with disabilities, their animals, and communities.
Canine obesity is one of the top welfare problems of pet dogs. Owners are often unable to successfully recognize and manage their dog’s condition, even with assistance from veterinarians. The aim of this exploratory study was to appraise people’s perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors relating to canine obesity and weight management by analyzing comments made in online public fora and about online video clips. Data comprised 450 posts on 15 threads related to canine obesity from online discussion fora (,, and and 637 comments posted about five videos published online ( These fora sites either had a dedicated topic area or were entirely for discussions regarding pets. Threads and videos chosen represented a diversity of obesity-related topics, dog breeds, and a range of overweight severities. Data were anonymized and analyzed using thematic analysis. Four key themes emerged: (1) Balancing conflicting responsibilities – Individuals appeared to balance their responsibility in providing their dog with happiness, health, and love, and differences in emphasis placed on these impacted feeding habits and weight management; (2) Need vs. greed – Individuals felt compelled to alleviate perceived hunger in their dog, which made sticking to reduced food diets difficult for some; (3) Minimizing – Individuals varied in the extent to which they perceived excess body fat to be problematic, and language used to describe their dog’s body changed when excess body fat was seen as an issue; (4) Control – Individuals’ perceived control over their dog’s body condition and food intake varied hugely, with some owners believing they had little-to-no control. Whilst such publicly available data need to be interpreted with caution, due to self-selection bias, this study provides valuable insight into factors that impact feeding practices and could impact compliance with weight-reduction programs. These findings can be incorporated into future research and behavior-change initiatives to increase engagement and compliance.
Mental ill-health associated with animal care work, coupled with a current shortage of animal care workers (ACWs), highlights the need to support this population’s wellbeing. Guided by the Job Demands-Resources model of burnout and the principles of positive occupational health psychology, we aimed to explore mental ill-health in ACWs and identify potential risks and protective factors for their wellbeing. ACWs (n = 217) completed an anonymous online questionnaire with measures of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, psychological distress, burnout, grief, social support, organizational support, and empathy for animals. We also asked an open question about what participants liked about their work. Our sample had a higher incidence of mental ill-health than the Australian general population. Multiple regression analyses suggested grief may be a job demand for ACWs, significantly accounting for 2.8–4.3% of the variance in burnout. Likewise, organizational support may be a job resource for ACWs, significantly accounting for 17.3–25.5% of the variance in burnout. Finally, qualitative content analysis indicated that ACWs enjoyed professional accomplishments, interpersonal interactions, and contact with animals as part of their work. We discuss our results and how they may be used to inform the implementation of workplace changes that support ACWs’ wellbeing.
Membership of equestrian organizations and the percentage of riders with knowledge of learning theory.
Rider competency and the percentage of riders with knowledge of learning theory.
Management practices, medical conditions, and behavioral/other signals used to assess ridden horse welfare (in alphabetical order) (adapted from Luke, Smith, et al., 2022).
Equestrians' knowledge of three key components of learning theory: negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, and positive punishment.
Training and riding directly effects horse welfare, highlighting the potential for training methods to improve both horse welfare and human safety. Learning theory is considered the most appropriate scientific foundation for horse training methods, yet equestrians’ knowledge of learning theory is reportedly low. The relationship between equestrians’ knowledge of learning theory terminology (LT) and horse welfare and rider safety was investigated to determine if rider knowledge of LT contributes to improved horse welfare and human safety. A sample of 394 Australian recreational and sport horse riders completed an online survey. Ridden horse welfare was assessed using validated husbandry and behavioral indicators. Rider safety was assessed by asking participants about ridden accidents and injuries. Rider knowledge of LT was assessed by asking participants to correctly identify scenarios that depicted three key operant conditioning terms: negative and positive reinforcement, and punishment. Only 24.6% of the sample correctly identified all three terms (the criteria for having a basic knowledge of LT), suggesting knowledge of LT has increased among equestrians but remains low. However, rider knowledge of LT was not significantly related to improved horse welfare or rider safety. It is uncertain why knowledge of LT remains so low among equestrians and why rider knowledge of LT did not translate to welfare and safety benefits as predicted. In facilitating the development of workable solutions to address the dual issues of poor horse welfare and human safety, we explore several possibilities, including a proposed new horse training framework that may enable learning theory to be leveraged more fully and deliver expected benefits.
This paper explores practices of citizen bat conservation in the city through the lens of becoming-with animal. It draws on insights gained from practices related to bat conservation efforts through interviews and participant observation with bat advocates in the city of Groningen, Netherlands. We show how becoming-with happens and why it is significant to humans and bats. We argue that becoming-with is dynamic and contingent on the elements present in different human–bat networks, which comprise bodies, technologies, practices, forms of knowledge, and urban spaces and places and result in varied relations that bats and bat conservationists enter into. Also, we observed the various outcomes of local bat conservation efforts. We argue that each of these ways of becoming-with must be considered valid, and is needed, in the big picture of bat conservation efforts in the city.
Japan currently displays many signs of a second demographic transition, which is marked by subreplacement fertility, a focus on self-fulfillment, and changes in family, residence, and marriage patterns. Concurrently, increased pet-keeping and related spending have occurred. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the emergence of pet parenting can be documented in Japan. Previously documented in the United States and India, pet parenting is defined as the human investment of money, emotion, and time in companion animals that is like parental investment in children. We collected 615 online survey responses from pet owners (female = 48.1%, male = 51.9%; parents = 39.0%, nonparents = 35.8%, future parents = 25.2%). In addition to demographic questions about respondents and their companion animal, each completed the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) and a series of questions regarding Affective Responsiveness, Training and Play, and General Care (collectively, CARES). Our results found clear, significant sex differences on all scales, including the total LAPS score, with women reporting more agreement on the attitudes or frequency of behaviors throughout. Nonparents and future parents reported significantly higher total LAPS scores, with the biggest difference compared with parents on the People Substituting scale. Nonparents were also found to report more frequent General Care and Affective Responsiveness on the CARES scales. We conclude that intuitive but novel differences in human-to-pet attachment and caregiving behavior demonstrate that pet-keeping practices can follow sex roles seen in parenting. Additionally, nonparents are more likely to invest in the direct care of companion animals in ways that mirror in adult-to-child parenting practices.
Animal-assisted intervention (AAI) has been used as a means of stress relief in clinical and general settings; however, animals are not always allowed in certain spaces. Adapting AAI to video or virtual mediums could improve accessibility and is temporally relevant given the recent shift to online interventions. The current study explored: (1) whether an active video (dog or nature) watched before a stressor would improve wellbeing more than tranquil videos; (2) whether exposure to a dog video improves wellbeing more than a nature video; and (3) whether exposure to either a dog or nature video improves outcomes more than exposure to a control video. One hundred and seven undergraduates were randomly assigned to watch one of five videos (active dog, tranquil dog, active nature, tranquil nature, and control) for 3 minutes and then complete a 3-minute stress task. Subjective (anxiety, stress, happiness, relaxation, positive affect, and negative affect) and physiological (blood pressure and heart rate) outcomes were collected at baseline, video, stressor, and recovery time points. Results showed that the activity level of the dog in the video did not influence outcomes. However, relative to the control group, the dog-video condition showed decreases in stress from baseline to video and a smaller decrease in stress from stressor to recovery. Additionally, relative to the nature-video condition, the dog-video condition showed a slightly higher increase in happiness scores from baseline to video. Lastly, relative to the control group, the nature-video condition showed increased relaxation scores from baseline to video and a larger decrease in relaxation scores from video to stressor. This research may inform the development of alternate modes of AAIs.
There is a well-established culture of bereavement after human loss in Africa. However, bereavement after pet loss has not been previously evaluated. This study aimed to assess pet bereavement among pet owners in Ghana. It involved a cross-sectional survey: an online structured questionnaire was administered to 390 pet owners in Ghana. The Pet Bereavement Questionnaire was used to measure the bereavement experience after pet loss. Results indicated that the majority (76.4%) of pet owners had experienced relatively strong bereavement in the form of grief, guilt, and anger. The level of pet bereavement was not significantly related to the gender (p = 0.260), employment status (p = 0.462), or marital status (p = 0.387) of the owners but was significantly associated (p < 0.05) with their age (p = 0.041) and type of animal kept (p = 0.002). In conclusion, pet bereavement among pet owners in Ghana is a significant issue. Critical care and attention should be given to owners who suffer the loss of their pets.
A common challenge for animal shelters/rescues is retaining volunteers that provide foster care for animals in their homes. This research investigated how animal shelters and rescues might better support volunteer dog fosters by examining the extent and role of attachment to the foster dog, the emotional challenges of fostering, and how organizations might alleviate these stressors. It employed data from a national survey of over 600 dog foster volunteers across the US. Findings suggest that emotional attachment to foster dogs is similar to attachment to pet dogs. Fostering animals does not appear to come without some emotional challenges for the human at the other end of the leash. Experiencing higher levels of emotional stress from fostering can have impacts on thoughts of quitting, which may hamper retention, particularly among the valuable volunteers who foster frequently. Organizational support directed at the human volunteer can alleviate these feelings, potentially increasing retention.
Sample images presented to participants.
The categories of images used in the study.
Research shows that dogs enhance safety-related social attributes of the individuals whom they accompany. We aimed to expand previous results by examining, in a sample of undergraduate women, the ability of dogs to improve people’s social image in various emotional contexts. Participants (n = 281) assessed the safety-related attributes of a man and a woman depicted alone or accompanied by a dog in threatening and safe contexts. Using semantic differential scales, they were assessed in safety-related attributes that have been shown to be affected by threatening situations and modulated by the presence of a dog: aggressive–nonaggressive, untrustworthy–trustworthy, unfriendly–friendly, and dangerous–harmless. The results indicated that the man (i.e., high-aversive scenes) and woman (i.e., low-aversive scenes) in threatening scenes benefitted from the presence of a dog; they were perceived as less aggressive, more trustworthy, friendly, and harmless when walking with a dog compared with the alone condition. In safe contexts, the man (i.e., low-positive scenes) was also perceived more favorably by the participants when portrayed with a dog (vs. alone); however, the woman (i.e., high-positive scenes) was similarly perceived when alone and when accompanied by a dog, according to the results for the majority of the social perception scales, which indicates a ceiling effect. Overall, the results show that the presence of a dog affects the perception that women have of the owner’s safety-related image in aversive and low-positive contexts; however, dogs do not enhance the already favorable perceptions of owners in high-positive scenes. These findings indicate that the effect of the presence of a dog on individuals’ social image is affected by the emotionality of the context in which they are portrayed.
Map showing the communities where questionnaire exercise was carried out
Descriptive characteristics of rural and urban respondents
Analyses of differences in the benefits of bats domain. Values are sample sizes along with percentages in parentheses (%). Calculations of Chi-square (χ 2 ) tests are made only for bushmeat/income and bushmeat/traditional medicine. Other calculations are based on Fisher exact test due to low sample sizes. Asterisks (***) denote significant difference (p < 0.001), ns = not significant.
Ordinal regression and summarized scores for Bats as Ghosts and on Medicinal Benefits from Bats
Bat species and their populations are declining globally due to a variety of anthropogenic activities. Human activities, motivated by negative attitudes toward, perceptions of, and poor knowledge and appreciation of these animals, have a major effect on their conservation. Thus, it is important to improve our understanding of bat-human interactions to help design appropriate bat conservation measures. We investigated human-bat interactions in a sample (n = 423) of people living around the Omo Forest Reserve and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, in Southwestern Nigeria. People who considered themselves more vulnerable to disease transmission from bats held more negative perceptions of and beliefs about bats. A major finding in this study suggests that respondents' perceived vulnerability to diseases from bats did not correlate with destructive behaviors toward bats. Participants with a low level of education intentionally killed more bats than those with a higher schooling level. The majority of the participants did not appreciate the role of bats in ecosystems and had a poor understanding of bats' niche in nature and the resulting benefits for humans. We suggest that positive messages that neutralize superstition and myths and highlight the role of bats in ecosystems are urgently needed. This measure could lead to behavioral changes that benefit bats.
The COVID-19 pandemic placed older adults at a disproportionate risk of experiencing social isolation and loneliness and subsequent reduced wellbeing. Evidence suggests companion animals may have the capacity to provide social support, reduce loneliness, and improve wellbeing in older adults. Using a cross-sectional design and online/phone semi-structured survey methodology, this qualitative study explored how companion animal ownership impacted the subjective wellbeing of 177 (89.8% female) older adult companion animal owners aged 65–84 years (M = 70.72, SD = 4.5) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. A template thematic analysis indicated older adult companion animal owners perceived their companion animals to provide mental, social, and physical wellbeing benefits during the pandemic. Participants found providing care for their companion animals offered a light-hearted reprieve from pandemic fears while bringing a crucial sense of motivation and purpose to their days. Participants considered that their companion animals provided “COVID-safe” tactile comfort, social support, and companionship, while older adults also found pleasure forming attachments with wild animals during the pandemic, a novel finding in companion animal research. Our findings suggest that older adults facing barriers to companion animal ownership, including those living in retirement villages, residential aged care facilities, and hospital settings, may gain mental health benefits from forming attachments with wild animals, without being burdened with the sole responsibility of providing full time care for a companion animal. Furthermore, our findings provide evidence to support the creation of two novel theoretical mechanisms of human–animal interactions for further investigation: the motivation and purpose theory and the reprieve theory.
Despite growing awareness of the psychological issues associated with childhood animal cruelty, there is a scarcity of research carried out directly with children. This study investigates the psychological factors influencing the likelihood of a child harming animals, specifically the roles of attachment, empathy, executive functioning, issues related to externalizing behavior, and Callous Unemotional (CU) traits. The sample comprised children at high risk of animal harm referred to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Animal Guardians program (n = 9) and low-risk controls (n = 18) matched for age and school class. A range of assessment techniques was used over three interview sessions for each child. Externalizing problems were measured using teacher reports; attachment was blind-coded using the Child Attachment Play Assessment; executive functioning was assessed using a Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS); and empathy was measured using self-report and picture-based tasks, the Kids Empathy Development Scale. Children at high risk of animal harm were more likely to be insecurely attached (p = 0.002), scored significantly higher on Strengths and Difficulties (U = 1.5, p < 0.001) and CU traits (U = 6.4, p = 0.001) as rated by their teachers, scored lower on cognitive empathy (U = 36.5, p = 0.043), and performed more poorly on the DCCS test of executive functioning (U = 31.0, p = 0.014). No significant differences were found between high-risk and low-risk children on self-reported empathy or emotion recognition. We also found that insecure attachment was related to an increased score for many psychological risk factors. This exploratory study demonstrates that childhood animal harm can act as an indicator of a range of psychological issues and highlights the importance of designing appropriate interventions for this vulnerable population.
Family Bondedness Scale item mean scores and standard deviations for Black/African American and White respondents.
Family Bondedness Scale item factor loadings, R 2 estimates for proportions of item variances explained by the latent construct for Black/African American and White respondents, with associated z-statistics and p-values, and bootstrap 95% confidence intervals (CI) for item factor loadings.
A significant percentage of US households have at least one pet. A recent poll found that over 90% of pet owners feel their pet is a family member, suggesting the definition of “family” should include pets. Some studies have found that pet ownership has physical, mental, and social health benefits for the owner, although other research has not found this. It is thought this variability is due to methodological issues. A significant issue identified is measurement problems, including a lack of validity and reliability evidence. Measurement equivalence is an important type of this evidence, and Black/African Americans should be included in research on this as they are an understudied, historically marginalized population. The Family Bondedness Scale (FBS) is a recently developed measure of the degree to which a pet owner feels emotionally bonded to their pet in a manner comparable to their emotional bonding with a human member of their family. This paper describes a measurement equivalence study of the FBS between Black/African American (n = 496) and White (n = 405) pet-owning populations. Results of multi-group confirmatory factor analyses with covariates were consistent with configural, metric, and threshold equivalence between Black/African American and White pet owners. The use of this measure in research and professional practice for numerous professions, including veterinary medicine, social work, veterinary social work, psychology, and other professions is considered. Implications for future measurement equivalence and validity research on scores from the FBS are also discussed.
Spearman correlations between attachment to pets and the personality traits of the owners.
Research shows that pet ownership is associated with different personality traits. In addition, the personality of pet owners is related to their level of attachment to their animals. Although there are already studies in the literature on this topic, few have examined these associations in the Brazilian population. The aim of this study, therefore, was to compare the personality traits of a sample (n = 2,463) of pet owners and nonowners from Brazil. We also studied if the level of attachment to their animals was related to the personality traits of the pet owners. The majority (75.3%) of those surveyed had dogs, cats, or both. When we compared pet owners with nonowners, we found that extraversion was higher in pet owners, albeit the effect size was small. In pet owners, the level of attachment was positively correlated with neuroticism. These results suggest that personality traits and attachment should be considered when researching human–animal interaction.
The objective of this study was to analyze the mediating role of a child’s attachment to a pet dog relative to the child’s attachment to their mother and their level of adjustment. A cross-sectional study was conducted with a convenience sample of 136 participants who owned one or more dogs (68 children: mean age = 9.01 years; 68 parents: mean age = 41.90 years). The children were asked to respond to items about their attachment to their mother and to their pet dog. The parents were asked to respond to items about their child’s psychological adjustment. A mediation model was tested using the SPSS macro PROCESS; we hypothesized a mediating effect for a child’s attachment to their pet dog on the relationship between the child’s attachment to their mother and their psychological adjustment. The results showed that a child’s attachment to their mother both directly (c′ = –0.242, p = 0.006) and indirectly (indirect effect = 0.084, bootstrapped 95% CI = 0.003, 0.174) predicted their psychological adjustment, the indirect effect being via the child’s attachment to their pet dog. Overall, our data support that secure attachment to the mother predicts positive psychological adjustment. A more secure attachment to the mother predicts less attachment to the dog, and this may indicate that a secure attachment to the mother saturates the child’s emotional and support needs, resulting in less psychological need for the dog. In this situation, the dog does not need to compensate for deficiencies in the maternal attachment figure, resulting in less attachment of the child to the dog. Finally, our data support an association between attachment to a pet dog and psychological adjustment in middle childhood, indicating the potentially protective role of a relationship with a pet dog.
As most university-based animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) feature interactions with dogs, little is known about the feasibility of providing opportunities to interact with cats. Few studies have examined employee or student interest in interacting with on-campus cats, and virtually nothing is known about the role of participants’ characteristics and perceptions in shaping their interest. Using a cross-sectional survey, the current study assessed participants’ responsiveness toward an on-campus cat visitation program in a sample of higher-education staff and students (n = 1,438). Using hierarchical regression analyses, responsiveness was modeled on participants’ demographic characteristics (i.e., employee or student, gender, age), the personality trait of emotionality, perceived stress, prior animal experiences (i.e., cat/dog ownership, cat allergy and phobia, responsiveness toward on-campus dogs), and perceived risks of on-campus cats. Regression analyses indicated that emotionality (β = 0.15, p < 0.001), being female (β = 0.06, p < 0.05), being open to a dog visitation program (β = 0.50, p < 0.001), and being a cat owner (β = 0.13, p < 0.001), were positively associated with responsiveness toward a cat visitation program, whereas having a cat phobia (β = −0.22, p < 0.001), cat allergy (β = −0.13, p < 0.001), being a dog owner (β = −0.08, p < 0.001), and perceiving interactions with cats as risky (β = −0.14, p < 0.001) were negatively associated. Interestingly, although we hypothesized positive associations between perceived stress and responsiveness, these associations were not significant (β = −0.03, p = 0.305), nor did we observe significant differences by student or employee status (β = 0.02, p = 0.610). These findings are the first to elucidate the role of staff and students’ features in shaping responsiveness toward on-campus cats in higher education, which may inform the design and implementation of on-campus visitation programs.
While pets may be protective for some people at risk of suicide, they may also become a risk factor or even become co-victims when humans end their own lives. It is important to protect against simplistic approaches to human–animal relationships, especially where simplification may endanger human and/or animal lives. Using publicly accessible online media articles between 2010 and 2020, this research sought to progress our understanding of suicidal acts involving pet animals. Sixty-one articles from six countries were identified; a mixed-methods qualitative descriptive (QD) approach to analysis was undertaken composed of descriptive statistical mapping followed by thematic content analysis. Almost 90% of the articles reported the deaths of multiple humans and 23% reported the deaths of multiple animals. A total of 116 animals were identified: mainly dogs, but also 8 cats, 2 rabbits, and 2 non-specified pets. Most animals died, with only nine surviving. Five key categories of scenarios were identified: extended suicides, mercy killings, suicide pacts, family annihilators, and unique. A further level of analysis was undertaken focused on the family annihilator reports (44/61 articles) using a published homicide-suicide typology. Key points to emerge from this analysis include the possibly higher vulnerability of dogs compared with other species. The terms “extended suicide” and “peticide” are discussed with the recommendation that the killing of pet animals be linguistically aligned with that of other killings. A focus on human–animal relationships reveals commonly unexplored intersections across criminology, mental health, and domestic violence and suggests the potential for collaboration across these fields driven by multi-species awareness. This research adds to arguments for data on animal presence in scenarios of human violence to be collected so that responses to protect vulnerable animals, and humans, can be developed.
The moderating effect of resilience on the relationship between pet ownership and (a) positive feelings, (b) negative feelings, and (c) affect balance in study 1.
The moderating effect of resilience on the relationship between (a) general attachment and positive feelings and (b) animal rights/animal welfare and affect balance in study 1.
The moderating effect of resilience on the relationship between animal rights/animal welfare and (a) negative feelings, (b) affect balance, and (c) wellbeing (WHO-5) in study 2.
Participant characteristics.
The interactions between resilience and pet ownership and resilience and pet attachment in the prediction of wellbeing.
ABSTRACT The governmental restrictions in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic led to social isolation, with many people spending more time at home with their pets. The relationships between pet ownership, pet attachment, and wellbeing were examined using two online surveys: one in the early stages of the pandemic (May, 2020) and the other over one year later (September, 2021). Resilience, optimism, and basic psychological need satisfaction (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) were examined as potential moderators. Study 1 had an international sample of 495 participants (70% pet owners), while study 2 had a UK sample of 243 participants (57% pet owners). Most participants reported that their pets provided emotional comfort and had a positive impact on their lives during the early stages of the pandemic. Pet ownership and pet attachment were positively associated with wellbeing in people with low levels of resilience. Conversely, people with high resilience who were pet owners or had higher pet attachment had lower wellbeing than non-pet owners and those less attached. Optimism and basic psychological need satisfaction were not significant moderators. Although some of the associations found in study 1 might have been specific to the beginning of the pandemic, other results were replicated a year later in the UK sample when social restrictions were eased (study 2). The findings from the two studies suggest that higher scores on a subscale of pet attachment, which involves the pet playing a more central role than humans in the owner’s life, might be directly linked to lower resilience and wellbeing and increased loneliness. The combination of high resilience and higher levels of pet attachment or pet ownership might be unfavorable. Nonetheless, pet ownership and healthy human–animal bonds can be protective factors for people with low levels of resilience.
Demographic information and environment-related behavior of the respondents (n = 500).
Results of comparing mean New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scores by age, gender, and residential location of the respondents.
Correlations between environmental concern/environment-related behavior and marine life attitude content categories.Stepwise linear regression results (unstandardized coefficients B/t values)
The relationship between people’s concern for the environment and their attitudes toward marine life remains ambiguous, especially in developing countries such as China. This paper reports results from an online survey (n = 500) conducted in 22 Chinese coastal cities regarding the relationship between public attitudes toward marine life and environmental concern, as well as environment-related behavior. The New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) Scale was used to assess respondents’ environmental concern. Attitudes toward marine life protection were measured using a revised version of the Animal Attitude Scale (AAS). Including some questions on demographics and environment-related behaviors and preferences, the survey also aimed to investigate human–marine life interactions in coastal Chinese society. The data revealed that people living in coastal China mostly endorsed a pro-ecological worldview, but they were rather passive in environmental public participation. All five dimensions of environmental concern were positively correlated with marine life attitude and associated with selected AAS content categories (human moral dominance, food, medical research, and hunting/fishing) to varying degrees. Anti-anthropocentrism was found to be the most important dimension of NEP in understanding marine life protection and the use of marine life. It was also discovered that some environment-related behaviors, such as beach visits, NGO membership/donations, and transportation preferences, were predictors of attitudes toward marine life and marine life usage. The findings from this study highlight three significant concepts in shaping public perception of marine life: the recognition of human domination, moderation, and potential environmental risks.
ABSTRACT Cultures have usually been studied as a purely human phenomenon. Recent research challenges this single-focused perspective on exclusively human agency in the formation and sustainability of cultures and offers a more inclusive format for exploring cultural processes, specifically the role that human and animal co-existence plays in them. Owing to its close historically rooted ties with such animals as camels, Bedouin culture in Oman has been selected as a fertile ground for researching how cultures are constructed through human–camel relations. Camel racing events have been chosen as a highly appropriate context for observing human–camel interactions owing to their abundance and cultural significance. The primary research method used was informal conversations with 13 adult racingcamel owners and keepers, together with 10 child camel owners, conducted between 2017 and 2021. The themes of the conversations about camels were centered on the cameleers’ interpretations of racing-camel behavior in relation to humans. The collected narratives revealed the interviewees’ perceptions of and thoughts on camels’ resemblance to humans justified by their observations and perceptions of camels experiencing emotions and feelings, such as sense of ego/personality, sense of pride, sense of shame, the ability to enact revenge, and feelings of sorrow or sadness. The findings confirm that camels are wrapped up in the identity and culture of Omani Bedouins and actively contribute to the creation of that culture by co-shaping the emotional and cognitive landscape of their shared reality with humans. KEYWORDS Bedouin culture; human– animal interaction; inclusive culture; nonhuman agency; Oman; racing camels
Correlations of normal-range personality trait domains and aspects with compassion for animals.
Correlations of maladaptive personality trait domains with compassion for animals.
Correlations of interpersonal values and problems with compassion for animals.
People vary in their compassion for animals, likely due in part to more variation in more basic personality and interpersonal behavior attributes. Previous research has generally suggested that more communal and agreeable people also tend to be more compassionate to animals. However, this research is limited regarding the range and depth of individual differences used to examine this issue. The goal of this preregistered study was to extend previous research by examining associations between compassion for animals and a wider range of variables than has been previously examined. In a representative sample of American adults (n = 992), we tested associations between compassion for animals and (a) Big Five personality trait domains, (b) Big Five trait aspects, (c) maladaptive Big Five trait domains, (d) interpersonal values, and (e) interpersonal problems. Results supported our hypothesis that compassion for animals is related to communion/agreeableness and openness to experience. Consistent with our hypotheses, the compassionate aspect of agreeableness drove correlations with that trait. Contrary to our hypotheses, maladaptive antagonism was not more strongly related to compassion for animals than normal-range agreeableness. The results provide a fuller portrait of the personological foundation of compassion for animals. Specifically, people who are more communal/agreeable and open tend to be more compassionate toward animals. This suggests that personality-related patterns of behavior among humans extend to human-animal interactions. Results also provide a basis for future work examining the mechanisms underlying human compassion for animals.
The presence of nonhuman animals in our shared world affects most areas of human activity, both physically and conceptually. The study of human–animal interactions is thus considered a field of great interest, but also of great complexity. In recent decades, it has become manifest in multiple disciplines through many works, intersectionalities, approaches, and methodologies. Our main aim was to provide a useful reference for researchers and other professionals specialized in human–animal interaction studies (HAIS). For researchers from other areas of knowledge, we also aimed to serve as an approximation to the internal coherence and structure of HAIS, contributing to the incorporation of nonhuman animals into their research and advancing their moral consideration through the concept of agency. This paper presents an updated description of the multidisciplinary field of HAIS through a bibliometric study based on the co-occurrence of author keywords, topics, and trends. In this analysis, we found similarities in 60% of the terms used in human–animal studies (HAS) and critical animal studies (CAS), although numerous different terms also emerged. This degree of term co-occurrence was not found with anthrozoology (AZ), which shared only one line of research, related to companion animals, with HAS and which accounted for 13% of the terms used. It had only one common node with CAS.
This qualitative study explored the effects of human–animal relationships on care-farms, with specific attention to the context of trauma histories. We questioned how the interpretative act and belief in identifying shared narratives of prior suffering could change how people relate to their own narratives of trauma and grief and to animals. Drawing on a study of grieving individuals’ experiences on a care-farm providing support and psychoeducation to individuals who have experienced traumatic grief, we present the results of an in-depth qualitative survey. As part of the study, participants were asked to reflect on whether it was important that the service-provider’s model included helping rescue animals: 91% answered affirmatively. Participants were invited to expand discursively why, or why not, this had been meaningful to them. Our results show that participants assigned benefits from personally identifying a “shared narrative” of trauma with the animals, that witnessing a level of rehabilitation and resilience in animals with trauma histories was meaningful for participants for their own integration of grief, and that being able to contribute “care” for animals provided a mechanism for compassionate practice. Our findings suggest that animals with loss and trauma biographies may provide unique and unexpected psychological benefits to humans facing grief and trauma. We are not suggesting that animals who have a traumatic past have an inherent capacity for providing salutary benefit or that such animals should be engaged to provide therapeutic opportunities. Rather, we emphasize the importance of narrative and how such narratives change how participants relate to, and interact with, animals. Our research serves as an important reminder that “therapy animals” are living beings with their own life histories and experiences. Careful thought needs to be given when working with animals in a therapeutic context in order to protect both vulnerable humans and animals.
Australian dog owners living alone were less likely to be lonely than non-dog owners living alone during the first COVID-19 government-enforced lockdown. Qualitative insights suggested this might be due to dog owners leaving the house more to walk their dogs. The current study aimed to replicate and extend these findings by exploring whether the relationship between dog-walking frequency and loneliness is mediated by mindfulness. Dog owners in the Australian state of Victoria, who were experiencing a second lockdown, were studied. The research also aimed to compare loneliness between Victorians experiencing a second lockdown and non-Victorians who remained out of lockdown. Comparisons between dog owners, cat owners, and non-owners were also made. Participants were 534 Australians living alone (281 from Victoria and 253 from other Australian states and territories) who completed an online self-report questionnaire. As expected, Victorians under lockdown were significantly lonelier than non-Victorians out of lockdown, with medium effect size, highlighting the second lockdown’s negative impact on mental well-being. For Victorians under lockdown, dog owners demonstrated less loneliness than non-owners, with a small effect. In contrast, for non-Victorians not under lockdown, both dog and cat owners demonstrated less loneliness than non-owners, with a small effect for cats and a small-medium effect for dogs, depending on the measure used. Contrary to expectations, mindfulness in locked-down dog owners did not mediate the relationship between dog-walking frequency and loneliness after adjusting for previous mindfulness experience. However, a significant direct effect of mindfulness on loneliness signified that mindfulness could effectively alleviate loneliness. Findings suggest that mindfulness might protect individuals living alone from loneliness, but dog walking alone may not increase mindfulness nor decrease loneliness. Hence, alternative ways to increase mindfulness during lockdowns should be explored.
Service dogs (SDs) are gaining attention for their benefits on the mental health of military veterans, especially related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, little is known about veterans’ experiences with SDs in relation to recovery from substance use harms. In fact, the role of animals in human recovery from substance use harms is nearly unexplored. To address this gap, we examined if and how SDs support veterans in recovery, including any potential challenges they may face. We adopted a descriptive, qualitative, patient-oriented design and conducted 16 semi-structured interviews with Canadian veterans living with PTSD, who had a SD, and who identified as in or seeking recovery. We applied the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) four dimensions supporting a life in recovery to our analysis (community, home, health, purpose) and explored how these dimensions pertain to the veteran–SD relationship. We found that all veterans perceived their SDs as an important support, impacting all four of SAMHSA’s dimensions of recovery through a sense of connection. Veterans described a mutual bond with their SDs and that they helped them build social capital with other humans in their community. Veterans also highlighted that their SDs helped them feel safer and more comfortable in public spaces, which encouraged them to get out of their homes more regularly. SDs enabled veterans to manage their substance use by promoting physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing and by offering meaning in veterans’ lives. However, veterans described challenges related to SD regulation and legislation, which hindered their ability to participate in meaningful daily activities and contributed to a sense of disconnection. Overall, veterans in our study described numerous ways in which their SDs supported a life in recovery from substance use harms. However, our findings suggest that improved public education and policy are necessary to legitimize SDs and ensure that the benefits of these animals are fully recognized.
Burnout in animal health care providers (AHCPs), namely, veterinarians and veterinary nurses, is highly prevalent. Although empathy can be a potential risk factor for burnout in these professionals, research has not empirically addressed the association between empathy and AHCP burnout. This study’s main aims were: (a) to analyze the association between empathy and burnout for AHCPs, distinguishing affective and cognitive empathy toward humans and empathy toward animals; (b) to analyze the possible protective effects of justice perceptions, professional identification, and meaningful work, to counteract the negative impact of empathy on burnout; and (c) to extend analyses to control for variables that might act as burnout protectors or risk factors, such as gender, years of professional experience, workload, income, and the perception that professionals suffer when performing euthanasia procedures. Convenience samples of 229 veterinarians and 96 veterinary nurses were collected in Portugal. The participants were invited to complete an anonymous online survey with self-reported measures. The measures used assessed burnout (exhaustion and disengagement), empathy for humans (cognitive and affective) and empathy for animals, justice perceptions, professional identification, and meaningful work. Multiple regression analysis showed that affective empathy was a significant risk factor for exhaustion in veterinarians and veterinary nurses. Empathy for animals was a significant risk factor for veterinarian exhaustion. Neither of the measures of empathy was a significant predictor of disengagement for veterinarians or veterinary nurses. Professional identification and justice perceptions, namely belief in a just world, were found to be significant burnout protectors. It is recommended that justice perceptions and professional identification should receive special attention in interventions to prevent and/or reduce burnout among AHCPs. The alternative possibility of preventing burnout through a decrease in empathy is not advisable, however, because empathy is a vital AHCP skill.
Dog trainers’ word choice may provide information about how a trainer understands and relates to the dogs they work with. To date, there has been little analysis of the words trainers use or whether specific words or phrases can readily differentiate the type of training methodology practiced. We gathered demographic and educational information and the stated training philosophy from the websites of 100 dog trainers from 10 US cities, identified by a popular consumer review site, to determine whether there was a difference in word use between training methodologies, if women practiced non-aversive techniques more than men, and if non-aversive trainers were more often certified than aversive trainers. Trainers were identified as using either non-aversive methods (utilizing positive reinforcement and no use of aversive leash tools) or aversive methods (may use positive reinforcement but will also utilize aversive methods to punish) by trainer self-identification or training-tool use. We then qualitatively analyzed the website texts outlining training philosophy using the text analysis software MAXQDA. Specific words or phrases that were selected based on their importance within training were turned into 20 codes that were examined for their context and frequency of use across the 100 philosophies. Some codes differentiated between training methodologies, particularly those related to training-tool use. For example, aversive trainers referred to corrective collars as “electronic collars” and explained their use; non-aversive trainers called the same tool a “shock collar” and stated that it was never used in their training. We found women practiced positive reinforcement training significantly more often than men (χ(2)2 = 12.79, p < 0.05). Positive reinforcement trainers were also significantly more likely to be certified than balanced trainers (χ(2)2 = 18.75, p < 0.01). This shows that there is a wide variability in word use by dog trainers, which leads to inconsistencies in information provided to the public. The low rate of certification also raises concerns about the scarcity of licensing and lax oversight of dog trainers in the USA leading to potential safety risks for both owners and dogs.
There is growing interest in the relationship between dog temperament and owner personality. Such work has potential implications for the placement of assistance dogs and the minimization of behavioral issues arising from the interaction of owner and dog characteristics. In this study, we investigated the relationship between owner personality and dog temperament using established measures (Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire-Revised [MCPQ-R] and Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire [C-BARQ]) in a field study of 74 owners (97.3% female) and their 123 dogs of varying breeds. Higher owner scores on Conscientiousness were positively related to dog temperament scores for “training focus,” “motivation,” “amicability,” and “extraversion.” Higher owner scores on Extraversion and lower owner scores on Neuroticism were related to higher owner-rated scores on dog “amicability.” The current study also compared demographic measures related to the dog with the measures of temperament. Taller dogs were rated lower in this sample on the traits of “extraversion” and “motivation.” Dog breed group was significantly related to dog temperament ratings, with crossbreeds rated higher for “motivation” and working dogs rated higher for “training focus.” Gun dogs, utility dogs, and crossbreeds were rated significantly higher than hounds for “amicability.” This study provides evidence that the use of a short-form dog temperament questionnaire in field research is possible and useful in studies exploring owner personality and dog temperament. Further exploration of the relationship between owner personality and ratings of dog temperament is recommended.
There is limited research on the effects of animal welfare reforms, such as transitions from caged to cage-free eggs, on attitudes toward animal farming. This preregistered, randomized experiment (n = 1,520) found that participants provided with information about current animal farming practices had somewhat higher animal farming opposition (AFO) than participants provided with information about an unrelated topic (d = 0.17). However, participants provided with information about animal welfare reforms did not report significantly different AFO from either the current-farming (d = −0.07) or control groups (d = 0.10). Although these latter effects on AFO were small and nonsignificant, they appeared to be mediated by changes in perceived social attitudes toward farmed animals and optimism about further reforms to factory farming. Exploratory analysis found no evidence that hierarchical meat-eating justification or beliefs about how well-treated farmed animals currently are mediated the effect. Further research is needed to better understand why providing information about animal welfare reforms did not substantially increase AFO overall, whereas providing information about current practice did somewhat increase AFO.
The number and percentage of participants (in total [n = 249] and broken down by companion animal owners [n = 146] and non-owners [n = 103]) according to demographic variables.
Results of the linear regression analysis for Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale scores involving predictor variables of participant gender, age, parental status, residential status, frequency of social interactions, and type of companion animal owned (n = 145).
Results of the linear regression analysis for depression (PHQ) scores involving predictor variables of participant gender, age, parental status, residential status, frequency of social interactions, and companion animal ownership status (n = 249).
Results of the linear regression analysis for positive experience (SPANE) scores involving predictor variables of participant gender, age, residential status, parental status, frequency of social interactions, and companion animal ownership status (n = 249).
Results of the linear regression analysis for stress (PSS) scores for pet owners involving predictor variables of gender, age, residential status, parental status, frequency of social interactions, type of companion animal owned, and LAPS scores (n = 145).
Companion animal ownership has been associated with a wide variety of physical and psychological health benefits. The extent to which a person gains any welfare advantages from the animal in their care, however, may be related to a wide variety of factors, one of which is the quality of the human–animal relationship. Thus far, little attention has been devoted to the role of attachment to one's companion animal on psychological wellbeing during a global pandemic, a time when mental health has been shown to be extremely poor. Therefore this study aimed to explore the relationship between the quality of the companion animal–human bond and mental wellbeing during a period of COVID-19-induced national lockdown in the United Kingdom. A purpose-designed online survey that aimed to measure sociodemographic background, companion animal ownership status, attachment level, and various components of mental wellbeing (depression, loneliness, positive experience, stress) was developed and completed by 249 UK-based adults (146 companion animal owners, 103 non-owners). Analysis revealed no significant relationship between companion animal ownership and any of the mental health outcome measures. Attachment to one's companion animal, however, was found to be a strong predictor of mental wellbeing, with higher bonds of attachment associated with higher levels of depression, loneliness, and lower levels of positive experience. Attachment to one's companion animal was not significantly associated with participants’ stress levels. Overall, findings from this study point to emotional vulnerability in people who are highly attached to their companion animal, although limitations must be borne in mind. This is an area worthy of further exploration, particularly considering the pandemic-induced rise in the number of people who have acquired a companion animal and the increment in mental health problems that has been predicted to emerge from COVID-19.
Owning reptiles (e.g., chelonians, lizards, and snakes) poses a great deal of challenges in terms of welfare and care, as well as conservation and environmental concerns. However, despite the large scale of the reptile trade, little is known about the motives for acquiring and keeping these animals. This research provides the first empirical investigation on the motives for owning reptiles as pets in Portugal as well as on the nature of the human–reptile bond. Using a mixed-methods approach, an online survey was used to gather the views and opinions of 220 reptile owners. Respondents described their affection toward reptiles using terms that denote affective states of increasing intensity: “to like”, “to love,” “fascination,” and “passion.” Four main categories of motivations for the long-term keeping of pet reptiles were identified: convenience, entertainment, companionship, and duty of care. Respondents perceived their pets as family members (64%) and as sentient beings, including the ability to feel “stress or fear” (≥ 80%) and “pain or discomfort” (≥74%). Snakes differed from lizards and chelonians in the sense that they were less frequently considered a “family member” (χ2(2) = 7.14, p = 0.03) and were perceived as less able to communicate (χ2(2) = 9.91, p < 0.01). Results suggest that human–reptile relations are driven by the same feelings as those previously reported for mammalian pets, although they are more diverse and nuanced by a sense of admiration and fascination for their mysterious nature and unusual behaviors. Building on these strong emotional bonds, promoting early education about wildlife conservation, and responsible pet keeping could play a crucial role in improving captive-reptile welfare.
Reports reveal various benefits of animals – especially dogs – for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, not all children with ASD display the same interest in animals. Dogs are the most common pets in households that have children with ASD and they are the only species to be used as service animals for these children. They are also the most commonly used species in animal-assisted interventions. Despite the key role that both the interest and behaviors displayed toward dogs might play in their benefits to children with ASD, no studies have yet investigated this aspect using direct observation. Applying an ethological approach, this study aimed to explore and characterize how children with ASD interact with a service dog during a first encounter. Video recordings of 20 children with ASD in free interactions during their first encounter with a service dog were analyzed. Our results indicate that children with ASD are attracted to service dogs, but we found important individual differences. We distinguished two main behavioral interaction profiles (one more distal with the service dog and the other more proximal and attracted to the service dog). Our results show that the children with ASD’s interaction strategies vary according to their age and ASD severity: younger children made fewer physical contacts with the service dog, gazed less at it, and displayed less care behaviors, while children with severer ASD seemed to rely on a smaller behavioral repertoire when interacting with a service dog. This study is the first to characterize how children with ASD interact with a service dog during their first encounter. These findings open onto future research concerning the importance of a child with ASD’s attraction to and behavior in the presence of an animal, as well as of the impacts of a child’s characteristics (i.e., age, ASD severity, and sensory processing disorder) to be able to improve programs for animal-assisted interventions.
Companion animals (pets), especially cats and dogs, have featured regularly in the media and public discourse during the global COVID-19 pandemic, including increased demand for pet adoption and more time spent with existing pets. This qualitative study aimed to describe the experiences of Australian parents with a child under 18 years and a cat or dog. Within a broader survey, parents were asked open-ended questions about the benefits and challenges for their family of living with a cat or dog during COVID-19, and where relevant, about reasons for adopting a new pet. Data were collected between July and October 2020, during Australia’s ‘second wave’ of COVID-19, when some Australians were subject to strict physical distancing or ‘stay at home’ orders. A total of 611 parents provided at least one free-text response. Inductive template analysis was conducted on all responses; 33 unique codes were identified and mapped onto a biopsychosocial model under three themes: (i) “Trying to Stay Healthy and Well” (biological), (ii) “Comfort, Coping and Worries” (psychological), and “Spending More Time Together” (social). Findings highlight the therapeutic role of pets for families during times of change and uncertainty, as well as the significant social impact of pandemic-related restrictions on family units. Benefits included support for the family’s physical and mental health, maintenance of family routines, distraction, comfort, and pets as an opportunity to connect with others. Challenges were numerous and diverse, such as cost and access to pet care, behavioural concerns, worries about pet and child wellbeing, and reflections about the pet’s mortality. These findings demonstrate the complex and varied impacts of the pandemic on families with children and pets; some families are likely to require ongoing psychological, financial, and veterinary supports.
Despite numerous documented benefits derived from pets among those who are socially marginalized, public attitudes often reflect a perception that people living in poverty should not be pet owners. Two studies assessed individual differences that might predict reactions to those living in poverty as a function of the presence or absence of a pet, and support for social service policies that enable or restrict access to pets based on financial means. Both studies involved online surveys assessing individual differences (social justice orientation, individualistic beliefs about poverty, identifying/empathy with others, and attitudes toward animals), and novel outcome measures assessing responses to a person requesting financial assistance from passersby and to social service policies regarding pets and people living in poverty. In study 1 (n = 212), when the hypothetical person asking for financial assistance was accompanied by a pet, participants expressed less suspicion of them, and the presence of a pet caused those low in social justice orientation to express more concern and give more money. Social justice orientation and attitudes toward animals were associated with greater support for policies that enable pet care and diminished support for policies that restrict pet access. Study 2 (n = 278) largely replicated study 1. In addition, two conditions made differentially salient the benefits of the human–pet relationship for either pet or human wellness (vs. a control condition). The salience of benefits to the pet increased support for enabling policies among those with lower social justice orientations; making salient the human or pet benefits similarly affected support for such policies among those who were less empathetic toward animals. The findings suggest that contextual cues can raise awareness among some individuals who might not otherwise be compassionate toward people in poverty with pets.
It has been proposed that companion animals, and dogs in particular, may be helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, notably for psychological adjustment. The present study addressed this idea in a sample of 509 Portuguese individuals exposed to a national lockdown. Linear regression analyses were performed to test for associations between having lived with a dog during that phase and experienced levels of anxiety and depression while considering potential moderating effects. Sub-analyses on 345 dog owners were performed to explore how different dimensions of the dog–owner relationship are associated with owners’ anxiety and depression levels. A complex association was found between having lived with a dog during the lockdown, living area, and anxiety. For participants in rural and semi-urban areas, living with a dog was associated with lower anxiety; for participants in urban areas, living with a dog was associated with higher anxiety. Among dog owners, dog walking was marginally associated with lower depression, while perceived costs derived from caring for a dog and emotional closeness were associated with higher anxiety and depression. The results highlight the importance of going beyond mere ownership when studying the effects of companion dogs on human health and wellbeing. Also, they call for attention to dogs as a source of both concern and potential for health planners when defining strategies to manage mental health.
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Samia Toukhsati
  • General Practice Supervisors Australia
Grahame Coleman
  • University of Melbourne
Pauleen C Bennett
  • La Trobe University
Vanessa Ilse Rohlf
  • La Trobe University
Yuying Hsu
  • National Taiwan Normal University