With the help of our supporters and partners, HABRI was able to continue to advance scientific research and share the message of the importance of the human-animal bond throughout this tumultuous year. We felt like it was important to compile our ‘year in review’ and reflect on all that we were able to accomplish together in 2020, and to express our gratitude to the leading companies and organizations that make HABRI’s efforts possible.
The following is a brief overview of HABRI’s programs, initiatives and important milestones reached in the past year:
Supporting Scientific Research on the Human-Animal Bond
5 New Research Projects Funded in 2020
In 2020, HABRI funded five innovative research projects exploring the benefits of the human-animal bond for child health and development, healthy aging, mental health and wellness and chronic health conditions.
- Canine-assisted anxiety reduction in pediatric emergency care (CANINE III) (Indiana University)
- Can interaction with a therapy dog as an adjunct to a child life specialist reduce anxiety in children in the emergency room (ED)?
- Anxiety, stress and “threat perceptions” are major negative modifiers of the ED experience in adults and children, especially with respect to pain perception. Many children who visit emergency departments have chronic medical conditions, and anxiety is three-fold more common in children with chronic disease. Researchers identify an urgent and critical need for a low cost, low risk method to reduce child and parental anxiety in the ED.
- Results of this study are expected to show children and parents in the therapy dog group will report 20% greater decrease in anxiety compared with children and parents exposed to the child life specialists. Children or adolescents with psychiatric complaints, autism-spectrum disorder or brain injury will have a greater reduction in anxiety with exposure to therapy dogs-handlers than those without these conditions.
- The Influence of Pet Ownership on Gut Microbiota Composition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among 50 to 85-Year Old United States Adults (Indiana University)
- Is dog or cat ownership associated with a richer and more diverse adult gut microbiome and does this mediate reduced prevalence of heart disease?
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability and the most common non-communicable disease in the developed world. Living with pets, especially dogs, is associated with reduced cardiovascular (CVD) risk through currently unknown mechanisms.
- The gut microbiota, which is comprised of trillions of bacteria flora, has been shown to have decreased diversity and a relatively reduced richness in people with CVD. Previous studies have found that more than 20 percent of differences in microbiota between people are related to demographic or environmental factors.
- Studies have found that pet ownership is associated with benefits to the gut microbiota of infants, and it is probable that adults who live with pets may have similar benefits and that these may play a role in CVD risk reduction. Characterizing the impact of pets on the adult gut microbiota is particularly important as, approximately, 40% of adults in the US live with one or more pet.
- Expected results of this study include:
- Dog ownership to be associated with reduced CVD risk,
- Dog and cat owners to have richer (more abundant) and diverse fecal microbiota,
- The microbial communities of participants without CVD to be richer and more diverse than those without CVD,
- The pre-dominant bacteria to differ between participants with and without CVD, and
- The fecal microbiota composition of pet owners to be negatively associated with CVD risk.
- Exploring the Impacts of Animal-Assisted Interventions on Positive Youth Development for Adolescents in Residential Treatment (University of Denver)
- How do animal-assisted interventions affect clinical outcomes for adolescents at Green Chimneys, a residential treatment center and special education school?
- Research shows that animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) delivered in school and therapy settings can reduce anxiety, depression, and social isolation in youth. Youth-serving programs are most effective at facilitating development when they encourage activities that build important life skills; create positive and sustained relationships between youth and adults; and provide opportunities for youth to use these life skills as both participants in, and as leaders of, valued community activities.
- This study will expand beyond previous human-centric models of child development to examine how relationships between youth and animals might influence trajectories of development.
- The proposed study will identify perceptions among students regarding how the AAIs affect their experiences and clinical outcomes. The findings will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the individual- and theory-based perceptions of the mechanisms of action that affect these outcomes.
- Uncovering Pet Ownership Benefits, Challenges, and Resources in an Aging Society: Promoting Healthy Aging in Healthcare and Community Environments (Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging)
- What are the benefits and challenges of pet ownership on healthy aging raised in healthcare and social service settings by older adults and their caregivers?
- The proportion of the population living with dementia is increasing dramatically in tandem with the aging of the overall population, creating a public health crisis. Research addressing the needs, preferences, and issues faced by all older adults is crucial for promoting healthy aging. The desire to experience the human-animal bond does not end with a diagnosis of dementia; rather, the human-animal bond offers people living with dementia an opportunity to enact one’s values and express one’s self. The overwhelming majority of older adults live in the community; yet the bulk of empirical evidence on the impact of pets and the human-animal bond on older adults’ health, particularly those living with dementia, is based on animal-assisted interventions in institutional settings.
- The unique capacity for the human-animal bond to facilitate healthy aging in this population amplifies the need to educate the geriatric workforce on the benefits, challenges, and resources which are likely to occur within the context of pet ownership. Pet ownership is likely to raise important issues, such as health and safety, finances, and planning for transitions.
- Uncovering the subject of pet ownership will not only support healthy aging; it may improve practitioners’ effectiveness and may impact their own wellbeing. Researchers expect that the results of this study will help to elevate pet ownership issues from anecdotal professional experiences to recognized factors that shape healthy aging.
- How does 8 weeks of equine-assisted therapy affect older adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease? (Texas Woman’s University)
- Can equine-assisted therapy reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
- Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, progressive, neurological disorder caused by the destruction of dopamine producing neurons in the brain. To treat the motor symptoms of PD, individuals are often presented with a variety of options that require lifestyle changes, and medications and surgical procedures that can lead to unwanted side effects. Traditional exercise may be a useful and safe option by contributing effectively to the treatment of PD and playing a crucial role with maintaining physical fitness mental health in this population. Alternative exercise, such as equine-assisted therapy (EAT), may be an effective modality to improve physiological health in those with PD. However, this remains largely unexplored.
- There are no currently published journal articles regarding the physical adaptations to EAT in adults with PD. This study will investigate the impacts of participation in an 8-week EAT program on symptoms of PD.
- Researchers predict that there will be decreased bradykinesia severity, and improved posture, balance, gait, and motor symptoms of PD in those that participate in EAT when compared to participants who undergo simulated horseback riding.
- With a greater understanding of the physical effects of EAT, more appropriate horseback riding protocols can be designed to maximize functional outcomes and quality of life in those with PD.
Published Research Results
- In 2020, partial results from a HABRI-funded study were published in the peer-reviewed Pediatric Research. The study, “The relationship between dog ownership, dog play, family dog walking, and pre-schooler social–emotional development: findings from the PLAYCE observational study”, conducted by researchers from the University of Western Australia, found that compared to children in non-dog owning households, children from dog owning households were:
- 23 percent less likely to have difficulties with their emotions and social interactions
- 34 percent more likely to engage in considerate behavior, such as sharing
- Additionally, the study found that children who played with their dog more than three times per week were 74 percent more likely to exhibit considerate behavior than those who played with their dog less often.
- Citation: Wenden, E.J., Lester, L., Zubrick, S.R. et al. The relationship between dog ownership, dog play, family dog walking, and pre-schooler social–emotional development: findings from the PLAYCE observational study. Pediatr Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-020-1007-2
- In December 2020, results from a HABRI-funded study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Pediatric Nursing. The study, “Exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism: Impact on children’s social skills and anxiety”, found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience increases in empathy and decreases in problem behaviors after adoption of a shelter cat into their families.
- Citation: Carlisle, Gretchen, et al. “Exploratory Study of Cat Adoption in Families of Children with Autism: Impact on Children’s Social Skills and Anxiety.” Journal of Pediatric Nursing, vol. 58, 6 Dec. 2020, pp. 28–35., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2020.11.011.
Survey Results: Cat Allergens & the Human-Animal Bond
- Results from an online survey of 2,062 cat owners conducted by HABRI and Purina Pro Plan suggest that for the as many as 1 in 5 adults globally who are affected by cat allergen sensitivities, the daily effort to manage cat allergens and coexist with the cats they love can be a struggle. Among other key findings, this research found that:
- About a quarter of U.S. cat owners are suffering from cat allergen sensitivities.
- 37 percent of owners with sensitivities say they “often” have to change their lifestyle to accommodate their cat, compared to 22 percent of owners without sensitivities to cat allergens
- Despite the hardships that allergens may bring, the love between cats and their owners is universal and unwavering.
- Regardless of allergens, about 9 in 10 cat owners agree that their cat is a member of the family, and more than 8 in 10 want the absolute best for their cat regardless of allergen sensitivity.
- Cat owners are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their cats, going as far as ignoring doctor’s orders. If told by their doctor to give up their cat to help manage cat allergens, 84 percent of cat owners would dismiss the advice. 20 percent of the total U.S. population would adopt a cat if allergies were not an issue
Educating the Public About the Importance of the Human-Animal Bond
Adapting to a Virtual World: Pet Week on Capitol Hill
Sponsored by twenty leading organizations in the pet care community, HABRI transformed Pet Night on Capitol Hill, a beloved annual in-person reception in Washington, DC, to a virtual event, Pet Week on Capitol Hill.
Pet Week attracted thousands of viewers across different streaming platforms, and featured a series of educational sessions led by Members of Congress, industry leaders, animal welfare advocates and the veterinary community on the most important issues facing the pet care community.
Pet Week brought the power of pets to Capitol Hill, delivering the message to elected officials and the public that pets are important for human health and quality of life.
Missed Pet Week? All Pet Week programming can be viewed as on-demand recordings at www.petnight.com!
Launch of Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative
Michelson Found Animals Foundation (MFA) and HABRI created the Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative to field research that demonstrates the benefits of pet-friendly housing to owner/operators, residents, and communities. Main findings from market research commissioned by HABRI and MFA include:
- 72 percent of rental units restrict the number of pets allowed
- As many as 6 million people have experienced a move related to pet ownership at some point in their lives
- With changes that would allow more pets to be accommodated, as many as 8.75 million pets could find new homes over time.
HABRI and MFA are committed to working together on this important initiative to develop resources and partnerships that seek to increase the availability of pet friendly rental housing, so that everyone can have access to the joy of pets.
For more information, visit http://petsandhousing.org/
Launch of New Virtual Human-Animal Bond Lecture Series with IDEXX
HABRI and IDEXX launched the Human-Animal Bond Lecture Series, a series of free, virtual lectures highlighting the impactful scientific research on the health benefits of the human-animal bond and the importance of veterinary medicine in strengthening human-animal bonds.
Each lecture will air live and be available after broadcast as an on-demand recording at www.habri.org/hab-lectures.
Milestones Reached in 2020
HABRI Turned 10 years Old
HABRI was founded in 2010 by the American Pet Products Association, Zoetis, and Petco. Since then, HABRI has made significant strides in funding research into the human-animal bond and supporting a more pet-friendly society.
- Over the past decade, HABRI has reached the following milestones:
- $3 MILLION in funding for innovative research projects since 2010
- 35 research grants investigating the health benefits of the human-animal bond
- 30,000 resources and counting in HABRI Central, HABRI’s online, keyword-searchable database of human-animal bond science
- 15 publications from HABRI-funded research grants in peer-reviewed journals
Raised Awareness for the Pet and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act Grant Program
HABRI, as a member of the PAWS Act Coalition, lauded passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 which, for the first time, provided $2 million in USDA grants to enable more survivors of domestic violence safe shelter with their companion animals.
With the Coalition, HABRI helped raise awareness of the availability of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) grant program, authorized through the passage of the PAWS Act, to support shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals.
HABRI looks forward to continuing to work together with the pet care community to expand the number of domestic violence shelters that can accommodate pets to help more survivors attain safe shelter with their beloved companion animals.
The Human-Animal Bond is Stronger and More Important than Ever
Sharing the Message of the Human-Animal Bond During COVID-19
The bond between people and pets has only strengthened during the coronavirus pandemic. HABRI helped raise awareness of the important role the human-animal bond continues to play during the pandemic by creating and disseminating a shareable infographic highlighting research conducted on the impact of pets and COVID-19. Key findings from research conducted demonstrate that pets are a bright spot for people in these difficult times:
- 72 percent of pet owners say that spending time with their pet is helping reduce stress and improve wellbeing during the pandemic
- 73 percent of pet owners agree their pet is helping them stay fit and active in 2020.
- Nearly 70 percent of dog owners say their dog has helped them feel less lonely during these times.
- 81 percent of pet owners feel closer to their pet today compared to before the pandemic.
HABRI’s milestones and our continued work to advance the science and education of the human-animal bond is made possible by the support of many leaders from our amazing pet care community. HABRI’s vision is for the human-animal bond to be universally embraced as an essential element of human wellness. HABRI works to achieve this vision through supporting a strong pipeline of high-quality research into the health benefits of pet ownership; creating and supporting education programs that focus on sharing the message that healthy human-animal bonds can improve health and well-being; and advocating for policies that enhance access to the human-animal bond for all and support a stronger role for pets in society.
HABRI looks forward to continuing this work in 2021 and beyond!
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