HABRI Grant Funding Update: Minority Pet Owner Health Project | HABRI

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners are funding a new scientific research project, awarding $69,841 to Sharmaine Miller, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow currently conducting research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, titled the “Minority Pet Owner Health (MPOH) Project.” The study will investigate whether pet ownership is associated with improved health outcomes of racial and ethnic minority pet owners.

According to the research proposal, “People who are racial and ethnic minorities face heightened health, financial, and social adversities (e.g., racism and discrimination), and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major player in exacerbating and highlighting these injustices. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of pet ownership on minority self-perceived physical and mental health.”

“Pet Partners prides itself on creating more accessible programs so that we can deliver hope and healing to diverse communities across the country,” said Pet Partners President & CEO, C. Annie Peters. “We are proud to co-fund this innovative research, which will help address the issue of health equity and disparities by providing new data on the health impacts of pets for racial and ethnic minorities.”

The researchers will examine whether pet ownership is associated with improved health outcomes for minority pet owners, and that the individual’s relationship with their pet, along with the self-perceived intensity of stress associated with racist or discriminatory encounters, will further modify the strength of this relationship. The researchers hypothesize that the pet-owner relationship may buffer negative mental and physical health consequences of traumatic experiences.

For this study, the researchers will collect and evaluate quantitative survey data from both white and non-white participants that own and do not own pets.  Acquired data on self-perceived physical and mental health will be compared with participant pet ownership status. Next, the study will also assess participant self-perceived stress levels associated with experiences of racism and discrimination, with the goal of investigating the potential ameliorating effects of pet ownership on racial trauma and health outcomes. Researchers will also examine whether people who are comparatively closer to their pets, experience improved health outcomes than those who are not.

“The MPOH Project is an important and much-needed project to address the gap in human-animal interaction research regarding the experiences of pet owners of color,” said HABRI President, Steven Feldman.