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Human-Animal Interaction research: An introduction to issues and topics.

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... For example, Jorgenson (2007), who reviewed literatures on the human-animal interaction in hospitals, found that having a pet can help patients to recover from their physical illness. A study by Griffin et al. (2011) also reported that animals can be a positive intermediary for mental wellness and stress management. ...
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Past research on restorativeness has concentrated mainly on the potential of vegetation, scenic environments, parks, and open spaces rather than on natural environments with animals. At present, the restorative effects of green spaces with animals on people's general well-being and psychological stress remain unclear. This study argues that green spaces with animals, such as zoo, are also likely to have a restorative influence on human psychological stress and overall well-being. A between-group experiment was conducted, in which 80 randomly selected visitors of the Malaysian National Zoo were asked to answer two scales, i.e. the adapted Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) and the Perceived Restorativeness Scale (PRS). Results showed that, contrary to the hypothesis, there is no significant relationship between stress and restorative effects of the green spaces with animals. However, statistical data indicate that most participants reported experiencing higher levels of restorative effects and lower levels of stress after they visited the zoo. These findings are generally supportive of cognitive model of attention restoration and point to the importance of enhancing the restorative qualities of the zoo’s environment and rebuilding the unity between man and nature.
... Participants in dogassisted reading programs often hold strong positive beliefs about these programs which may lead to a selffulfilling prophecy. Griffin, McCune, Maholmes and Hurley (2011) note that most researchers in the broader area of HAI, Human-Animal Interaction, are "animal lovers, who may be biased toward finding positive HAI effects" (p. 6). Additionally, this type of research may be subject to the Hawthorne Effect, a phenomenon that describes changes in behavior when people know they are part of a research study or new initiative, which could impact students, teachers, and dog handlers. ...
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This chapter chronicles the history of dog-assisted literacy programs beginning with the work of Sandi Martin in 1999. The growth of these programs is documented not only as an increase in number of participants and variety of settings, but also by the proliferation of research reports recognizing their benefits. Most critically, the chapter details the outcomes of dog-assisted literacy programs by reviewing the wide range of documented benefits, such as improvement in reading skills (e.g., reading level, oral fluency), attitudes (e.g., confidence, self-esteem, interest, motivation), and behaviors (e.g., focus, cooperation, calm, socialization). We also focus attention on the methodological and measurement challenges in evaluating on-going educational programs. The progression of the research on dog-assisted literacy programs is detailed beginning with anecdotal and single group post-test designs, to more recent studies utilizing control groups and pre/post-test methodologies. Whether reported as case studies, qualitative interviews, or quantitative reading scores, the research findings concur that dog-assisted literacy programs are effective in developing children’s reading.
... There are other benefits for having pets that are not specifically related to children and adolescents and consequently they are not focused here. For example, pets can be used in occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical rehabilitation to help patients recover (Griffin, McCune, Maholmes, & Hurley, 2011). Aside from these designated therapeutic roles, pets are also valued as companions, which can certainly affect the quality and well being of our lives. ...
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Pets are part of many adolescent’s lives. Objectives: To identify in a large national representative sample of Portuguese adolescents (HSBC study), the percentage of adolescents that have pets, what kind of feelings pets provide, differences by gender and age (through school grades) and to verify whether adolescent health, well-being, life satisfaction and psychological symptoms are associated with having a pet. Methods: The 2014 study provided national data of 6026 Portuguese adolescents (52.3% of which were girls), whose mean age was 13.8 years, randomly selected from those attending 6th, 8th and 10th grades. Measures included asking the participant if he/she had pets, which pet was, and the relationship they had with the pet, ISS, perception of well-being, life satisfaction and psychological symptoms. Results: The large majority of Portuguese adolescents had a pet. Adolescents who referred having a pet reported more frequently having dogs and cats. As for positive feelings related to pets, results showed that pets give them feelings of happiness, companionship, nurturing, tranquility, security and responsibility always/almost always, especially in girls and younger boys. The results also showed that having a dog was associated with a higher socio-economic status, better perception of well-being, more life satisfaction and less psychological symptoms. Conclusion: Since research shows that young people who have pets report higher rates of well-being/health perception, that information should be used to conduct more studies and change policies in ways that benefit adults and children.
... The major challenges to Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) research are the methodological difficulties encountered in studying this complex relationship and assigning direction of causation [5,29,30] . Many studies have been cross-sectional in nature, with few longitudinal studies reported [5,29] . ...
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Objective: To examine whether dog ownership is associated with lower risk of childhood obesity. Methods: Cross-sectional study of 7,759 children at age 7 years in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in the UK. In addition, longitudinal analyses were conducted between age 7 and 9 years. BMI at age 7 and 9 years was calculated from clinic-measured weight and height and standardised in reference to 1990 UK data. Dog ownership data were collected by carer questionnaire at various time points. Results: After adjustment for confounding factors associated with dog ownership or obesity, there was no evidence of an association between obesity and dog ownership at 7 years OR = 1.18, 95% confidence interval = 0.88-1.59, p = 0.27), or dog ownership history. There was also no evidence for an effect of dog ownership on BMI change between 7 and 9 years, nor acquisition of a dog on the change in weight status of obese children between 7 and 9 years. Conclusion: This study provides no evidence for a protective effect of dog ownership on the development of childhood obesity. Further investigation is required to determine the impact of dog ownership on physical activity in overweight and obese children.
... To address this gap in the literature, in 2008 the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the NIH and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition of Mars entered into a public–private partnership with the goal of encouraging rigorous scientific research on the interaction of children and pets—that is, HAI—especially as it relates to child development, health, and the therapeutic involvement of animals with children and adolescents. Toward that end, the partners held two international research conferences to review the current science and discuss the feasibility of a research agenda aimed at looking at how HAI affects children (for the reviews in question, see Esposito, McCardle, Maholmes, McCune, & Griffin, 2010; Griffin, McCune, Maholmes, & Hurley, 2010). The purpose of this article is to review the key themes that emerged from those conferences, address the application of HAI to child health and development, and discuss the potential of HAI as an important field of inquiry for developmental scientists. ...
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Abstract— Research on human–animal interaction (HAI) is a relatively new field of inquiry for developmental scientists seeking to understand the potential role pets play in children’s health and well-being. It has been documented that pets offer a source of emotional support to children. However, most studies focusing on how animals affect children’s health are limited and stop short of providing answers to key developmental questions. Addressing this need, beginning in 2008, scientists at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, in collaboration with the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, a subsidiary of the Mars Corporation, convened two international conferences of researchers to review the current science on HAI. These groups crafted a research agenda aimed at looking at how animal interaction affects children and promotes optimal development. This article reviews the key themes emerging from the conferences, addresses the application of HAI to child health and development, and discusses the potential of HAI as an important field of inquiry for developmental scientists.
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THE RAGING CHICKEN PRESS IS “a left/progressive media site devoted to covering and helping build on-the-ground activism and communities of resistance” (Mahoney, 2016). The intersection of this civic need and Communication scholarship has existed under different monikers over the past century, to include alternative media, community media, independent media, and radical media, to name just a few. Because of the inherent obfuscation of the nature and definition of varying types of “good” and “bad” media, many scholars (Atton, 2002; Meadows, Forde, Ewart, & Foxwell, 2009; Rennie, 2009; Rodríguez, 2001) have determined subcategories of alternative media to try to clarify this delineation. For example, within these typologies, alternative media is understood as fighting oppressive structures; such groups are therefore subversive in nature and take an oppositional stance against the mainstream media and the corporations that own it. Community media is often understood as “endorsing community governance” and trying “to maintain community concerns” by “valuing community expression as a necessary alternative to public service and commercial media” (Rennie, 2009, p. 157). Radical media refers to “media, generally small-scale and in many different forms, that express an alternative vision to hegemonic policies, priorities, and perspectives” (Downing, 2001, p. v). Across these definitions, it is generally accepted that small-scale media groups seek to open dialogue with and dissent from larger, dominant power systems while creating internal organizational configurations that flatten hierarchical power structures, thus creating more democratic processes. As I learned from our conversations, Raging Chicken Press traverses all these categories, for it is a regional media source that is dedicated to questioning power structures and building democratic practices within local communities.
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To gain an edge in performance, athletes, coaches, trainers, and sport psychologists worldwide leverage findings from psychological research to develop training and performance strategies. The field of sport psychology draws upon research on stress, anxiety, mindfulness, and team building to develop these strategies. Here, we introduce human-animal interaction as a potential area of research that may apply to athletic performance. Structured interactions with animals—particularly therapy dogs—can provide physiological benefits associated with stress and the oxytocin system, psychological benefits for anxiety and motivation, and social benefits through social support. Yet these effects have not yet been systematically investigated in athletes. Integration of human-animal interactions into athletics can occur through animal visitation programmes and resident therapy animal programmes. Integrating human-animal interactions into athletics presents some unique challenges and limitations that must be considered before implementing these programmes, and these interactions are not a panacea that will work in every situation. But, given the amount of human-animal interaction research suggesting benefits in medicine, mental health, and education contexts, it is worthwhile exploring potential benefits not just for athletic performance, but also for injury prevention and recovery. Highlights • Human–animal interaction is a potential area of research that may apply to athletic performance. • Structured interactions with animals can provide physiological, psychological, and social benefits to athletes, through it is not a panacea that will work in every situation. • Integrating human–animal interactions into athletics presents some unique challenges and limitations that must be considered before implementing these programs.
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Human-animal interaction (HAI) is an interdisciplinary field of research that focuses on the impact of animals on human lives and the roles that they play in human lives. Drawing on the theme of well-being over the life course, we explore HAI in multiple contexts: pets as family, pet illness and aging, human health and development over the life course, and animal-assisted interventions. Conceptualizing human’s interactions with companion animals in the context of the life course highlights the need for rigorous scientific methodology, improved measurement, and the application of advanced research methods to model these complex relationships.
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Ten years ago, while reviewing the extant research literature on Human-Animal Interaction(HAI), a single question came to mind: “Why don’t we know more about this topic?” (Griffinet al., 2011). A decade later the answer appears to have been, in part, a lack of infrastructureto organize and support stand-alone workshops and symposia at scientific conferences (andresulting edited volumes and journal articles) and concomitant sustained funding for rigorousresearch studies. As evidenced by thisFrontiersResearch Topic which includes 13 original datapapers, the 10-year Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between theEunice Kennedy ShriverNationalInstitute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the WALTHAMR©Centre forPet Nutrition (WALTHAMR©), a part of Mars Incorporated, has enabled the Human-AnimalInteraction (HAI) field to make remarkable progress in, by scientific standards, a very brieftimespan (McCune et al., 2020). In the final Opinion paper of thisFrontiersResearch Topic,Human-Animal Interaction Research: A Decade of Progress, weprovide a commentary on howprogress in basic and translational HAI research can be sustained as well as explore how ongoingchallenges and untapped possibilities will impact the next decade of HAI research. (20) (PDF) Human-Animal Interaction Research: Progress and Possibilities. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338069955_Human-Animal_Interaction_Research_Progress_and_Possibilities [accessed Jan 17 2020].
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Animal-assisted activities (AAA), a form of animal-assisted interaction, have the potential to improve positive coping for youth with significant psychiatric symptoms admitted to acute behavioral health units. However, little is known regarding the appropriateness of an AAA program in short-term mental health hospital settings. The goal of this investigation is to describe and report on the feasibility and acceptability of embedding a canine-AAA program within the therapeutic programming of a pediatric behavioral health unit. Both patient participants and unit staff completed quantitative and qualitative measures. Outcomes yielded preliminary data suggesting AAA was feasible and acceptable to patients and unit staff. Initial efficacy outcomes demonstrated decreases in subjective distress. Qualitative data provided areas for further refinement of the AAA program.
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Despite interest in human–animal interaction, few studies have tested whether the presence of a dog facilitates children's emotional responding. Preadolescents (N = 99) were randomly assigned to complete the Trier Social Stress Test either with or without their pet dog. Children rated their positive and negative affect, and high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) was assessed throughout the session. Children reported higher positive affect when they completed the task with their pet dog, although there were no differences for negative affect or HF-HRV. Children who had more physical contact with their dog at baseline reported higher positive affect. The findings suggest contact with pets is associated with enhanced positive affect.
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The inclusion of animals in therapeutic activities, known as animal-assisted intervention (AAI), has been suggested as a treatment practice for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This paper presents a systematic review of the empirical research on AAI for ASD. Fourteen studies published in peer-reviewed journals qualified for inclusion. The presentation of AAI was highly variable across the studies. Reported outcomes included improvements for multiple areas of functioning known to be impaired in ASD, namely increased social interaction and communication as well as decreased problem behaviors, autistic severity, and stress. Yet despite unanimously positive outcomes, most studies were limited by many methodological weaknesses. This review demonstrates that there is preliminary "proof of concept" of AAI for ASD and highlights the need for further, more rigorous research.
Article
Animal welfare laws in many countries require that animals be housed and treated in such a way that all of their species-specific needs can be satisfied and that they are not subjected to stress or pain. Advances in knowledge about the human/animal relationship and its therapeutic value can also be secured by combining the methods and results of other disciplines with those of ethology. Ethology and Ethological methods have much to offer the field of human/companion animal relations and potentially animal-assisted therapy, but that much remains to be done. The combination of theories, methods, and interpretations from different disciplines can lead to major advances in the understanding of those relations. Therefore, any educational program on human/animal relationships and animal-assisted therapy must, of necessity, be interdisciplinary. HAI practitioners/researchers should know how to build systematic evidence as well as search for the evidence in the literature. Numerous studies could be established with clinician's providing guidance for the research team.
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Substantial sums of money are invested annually in preventative medicine and therapeutic treatment for people with a wide range of physical and psychological health problems, sometimes to no avail. There is now mounting evidence to suggest that companion animals, such as dogs and cats, can enhance the health of their human owners and may thus contribute significantly to the health expenditure of our country. This paper explores the evidence that pets can contribute to human health and well-being. The article initially concentrates on the value of animals for short- and long-term physical health, before exploring the relationship between animals and psychological health, focusing on the ability of dogs, cats, and other species to aid the disabled and serve as a “therapist” to those in institutional settings. The paper also discusses the evidence for the ability of dogs to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of specific chronic diseases, notably cancer, epilepsy, and diabetes. Mechanisms underlying the ability of animals to promote human health are discussed within a theoretical framework. Whereas the evidence for a direct causal association between human well-being and companion animals is not conclusive, the literature reviewed is largely supportive of the widely held, and long-standing, belief that “pets are good for us.”
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Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has been practiced for many years and there is now increasing interest in demonstrating its efficacy through research. To date, no known quantitative review of AAT studies has been published; our study sought to fill this gap. We conducted a comprehensive search of articles reporting on AAT in which we reviewed 250 studies, 49 of which met our inclusion criteria and were submitted to meta-analytic procedures. Overall, AAT was associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in four areas: Autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being. Contrary to expectations, characteristics of participants and studies did not produce differential outcomes. AAT shows promise as an additive to established interventions and future research should investigate the conditions under which AAT can be most helpful.
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We conducted a meta-analysis to determine the effectiveness of animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for reducing depressive symptoms in humans. To be included in the meta-analysis, studies had to demonstrate random assignment, include a comparison/control group, use AAA or AAT, use a self-report measure of depression, and report sufficient information to calculate effect sizes, a statistical standardization of the strength of a treatment effect. Five studies were identified for analysis. The aggregate effect size for these studies was of medium magnitude and statistically significant, indicating that AAA/AAT are associated with fewer depressive symptoms. This analysis revealed gaps in the research on AAA/AAT, which we attempted to identify in order to better understand the factors that make AAA and AAT effective at reducing depression.
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Dog bites can cause significant injuries leading to death or long-lasting disability. The education of children in the school setting could improve their knowledge and attitude towards dogs and encourage safer behaviour around them. The authors of this systematic review examined studies that determined the effectiveness of educational programmes for children and adolescents in preventing dog bite injuries. The educational programmes aimed to change the children and adolescents behaviour towards dogs. Two studies were included in this review. Both were of moderate methodological quality and evaluated the effectiveness of educating children on preventing dog bite injuries. Both studies involved a 30-minute lesson. One study additionally compared the effect of educating the children's parents through a leaflet. One study videotaped the way children behaved when exposed to an unknown dog, and their behaviour was observed. The main outcome reported in both studies was a change in behaviour. It is unclear from this review whether educating children can reduce dog bite injuries as dog bite rates were not reported as an outcome in either of the included studies. The effect of educating children and adolescents in settings other than schools has not been evaluated. There is a general lack of evidence about the impact of education to prevent dog bites in children and adolescents, therefore further studies that look at dog bite rates after an intervention are recommended. Education of children and adolescents should not be the only public health strategy to reduce dog bites and their dramatic consequences.
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Oxytocin (OT) has been shown to play an important role in social bonding in animals. However, it is unclear whether OT is related to inter-species social bonding. In this study, to examine the possibility that urinary OT concentrations of owners were increased by their "dog's gaze", perhaps representing social attachment to their owners, we measured urinary OT concentrations of owners before and after interaction with their dogs. Dog owners interacted with their dogs as usual for 30 min (interaction experiment) or were instructed not to look at their dogs directly (control experiment). We observed the behaviors of owners and their dogs during the experiments, and measured OT concentrations by radioimmunoassay in urine samples from the owners collected just before and 20 min after interaction with their dogs. Using a cluster analysis, owners could be divided into two groups: one received a longer duration of gaze from their dogs and reported a higher degree of relationship with their dogs (LG); the other received a shorter duration of gaze and reported a lower degree of relationship (SG). Urinary OT was higher in LG than SG after usual interaction with their dogs, but not in the control experiment. In the interaction experiment, a high correlation was found in LG between the frequency of behavioral exchanges initiated by the dog's gaze and the increase in urinary OT. We conclude that interactions with dogs, especially those initiated by the dog's gaze, can increase the urinary OT concentrations of their owners as a manifestation of attachment behavior.
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Exposure to pets has been implicated as a risk factor for asthma. However, this relation has been difficult to assess in individual studies because of the large potential of selection bias. We sought to examine the association between exposure to furry pets and asthma and allergic rhinitis by means of a meta-analysis. We retrieved studies published in any language by searching systematically Medline (1966-March 2007), Embase, LILACS and ISI Proceedings computerized databases, and by examining manually the references of the original articles and reviews retrieved. We included cohort and case-control studies reporting relative risk estimates and confidence intervals of exposure to cats, dogs and unspecified furry animals and subsequent asthma and allergic rhinitis. We excluded cross-sectional studies and those studies that did not measure exposure but rather sensitization to pets. Thirty-two studies were included. For asthma, the pooled relative risk related to dog exposure was 1.14 (95% CI 1.01-1.29), that related to exposure to any furry pet was 1.39 (95% CI 1.00-1.95). Among cohort studies, exposure to cats yielded a relative risk of 0.72 (95% CI 0.55-0.93). For rhinitis, the pooled relative risk of exposure to any furry pet was 0.79 (95% CI 0.68-0.93). Exposure to cats exerts a slight preventive effect on asthma, an effect that is more pronounced in cohort studies. On the contrary, exposure to dogs increases slightly the risk of asthma. Exposure to furry pets of undermined type is not conclusive. More studies with exact measurement of exposure are needed to elucidate the role of pet exposures in atopic diseases.
The role of pets in children's lives: Human-animal interaction in child development, health and therapeutic intervention
  • J A Griffin
  • S Mccune
  • V Maholmes
  • K Hurley
Griffin, J. A., McCune, S., Maholmes, V., & Hurley, K. (in press). Scientific research on human-animal interaction: A framework for future studies. In P. McCardle, M. McCune, L. Esposito, J. A. Griffin, & V. Maholmes (Eds.), The role of pets in children's lives: Human-animal interaction in child development, health and therapeutic intervention. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
The health benefits of pets. NIH Technology Assessment Statement Online
National Institutes of Health. (1987). The health benefits of pets. NIH Technology Assessment Statement Online 1987 September 10-11. Retrieved August 4, 2009, from http://consensus.nih.gov/1987/1987HealthBenefitsPetsta003html.htm