New Research Says Therapy Dogs Are OK! | HABRI

New Research Says Therapy Dogs Are OK!

HABRI-Funded Study Finds Dogs Are Not Stressed When Visiting Pediatric Cancer Patients

HABRI-Funded Study Finds Dogs Are Not Stressed When Visiting Pediatric Cancer Patients

Washington, D.C. (January 2, 2018) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today the publication of a study exploring the impacts of therapy dog sessions on the welfare of the dogs involved. Conducted by researchers at American Humane, findings of the study demonstrate that dogs did not show increased stress resulting from the therapy visits. Funded by HABRI and Zoetis, American Humane’s newly-released “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study,” is one of the largest human-animal bond studies focusing on the impact of animal-assisted interaction (AAI) on children with cancer and their parents, as well as the participating therapy dogs.

“Results of this study demonstrate that dogs did not show increased behavioral or physiological stress, indicating that placing therapy dogs in this type of therapeutic setting does not cause undue stress to the animals,” said Amy McCullough, PhD and Principal Investigator, American Humane. “This research will help American Humane, HABRI and practitioners in the field to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare.”

“This research project is important because now we have strong evidence that, with proper training and handling, the welfare of therapy animals in hospital settings is not adversely impacted,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “As more animals are deployed to help hospital patients, we can be confident that the dogs are OK!”

Dr. McCullough, along with Ashleigh Ruehrdanz, MPH and Molly Jenkins, MSW of American Humane, supervised data collection on participating handler-dog teams at five children’s hospitals across the United States. The objective of the study in regard to participating canines was to determine the stress levels of therapy dogs during regular AAI sessions with pediatric oncology patients and their families.

The research team videotaped each animal-assisted therapy session and coded the dogs’ behavior using an ethogram developed to capture affiliative and stress-related behaviors. The frequency of each behavior was coded from the videos and a score was determined for each. In total, more than 400 videos of the AAI sessions were coded. In addition, handlers completed the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) upon entering the study, and completed a self-report measure regarding their dog’s behavior as well as AAI activities and participants after each session. The results showed that participating canines did not have significantly increased physiological or behavioral stress responses while participating in AAIs in pediatric oncology settings.

The researchers also measured canine stress through salivary cortisol levels, with a total of nearly 600 saliva samples collected and analyzed over the course of the study. Trained handlers obtained saliva samples from their dog using a swab. A series of five saliva samples taken at prescribed times (morning; noon; night; introduction of a trigger (therapy bandana or vest; upon arrival at the hospital) were averaged to produce a baseline cortisol level for each dog. Post-session saliva samples were taken 20-30 minutes after initiation of the AAI session. No significant differences in salivary cortisol levels between baseline and AAI sessions were found.

“In addition to these promising findings, it is important for therapy animal organizations, handlers and the health care facilities where they serve to meet high standards of care and welfare for the animals involved,” Feldman added.

About HABRI

HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.

About American Humane

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. To learn more about American Humane and its 140 years of work in building a better world for animals and strengthening the human-animal bond, please visit www.AmericanHumane.org.

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

###

Press Releases
Pets Bring Joy and Health Benefits to People Staying at Home Around the World; Now Two Organizations are Teaming up to Share the Science and Research Behind This

As millions of pet owners around the world are staying at home during the COVID-19 crisis, many are discovering the benefits of sharing more time with their pets. Research into simple acts like walking a dog or petting a cat continues to demonstrate what many pet owners around the planet have long understood: spending time with pets can provide a wide range of benefits to people, from improved mood and reduced stress, to decreased loneliness and even lower blood pressure. Now, two not-for-profit organizations are teaming up to help amplify and promote the global science and research insights behind the benefits of living with pets. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) based in Washington, D.C., and the Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations (GAPFA) based in Brussels, Belgium, are working together to promote their on-line libraries of scientific research. Both organizations and their members have spent years aggregating scientific knowledge and information examining how pets and people are beneficial for each other. These learnings span many age groups, cultures and geographies and are posted on their respective websites, www.habri.org and www.gapfa.org. Key resources include information on the physical and mental benefits of pets for children, adults, and older people. “Pets make our lives better in so many ways, and this is true anywhere around the world,” said GAPFA President David Corley. “Pets give so much to us, and it is our responsibility to ensure we are providing the best nutrition to enable them to be at their best. GAPFA represents 13 national and regional pet food industry associations and three international pet food manufacturers, and we are pleased to join with HABRI to highlight the special companionship and significant health benefits that pets bring to our lives, especially in times like these.” “As people practice social distancing and stay home, they are increasingly turning to pets for comfort, joy and companionship,” said...

Press Releases
New Pilot Study to Examine the Impact of a Therapy Dog Intervention on Loneliness and Related Health Outcomes in Vulnerable Populations

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners announced today a new research grant to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to investigate the potential for reduced loneliness among people hospitalized for mental health conditions resulting from a program of therapy dog interventions. This project, titled “A Pilot Study to Examine the Impact of a Therapy Dog Intervention on Loneliness and Related Health Outcomes in Patients with Mental Illness,” aims to address key questions to support an animal-assisted intervention (AAI) as an inpatient intervention for these vulnerable individuals.   “This pilot study is important to Pet Partners as it will help advance standards of practice in the delivery of animal-assisted therapy for a population that stands to benefit from interaction with friendly, well-trained therapy animals,” said C. Annie Peters, President & CEO of Pet Partners. “In supporting this research, we hope to make an impactful contribution to the field of human-animal interaction and to support the work of volunteer therapy animal teams across the country dedicated to sharing the healing benefits of the human-animal bond with people in need of comfort and support.”  “We know that therapy animals can be beneficial to people in the hospital, but there is a need for more scientific studies to investigate their impact on loneliness, and to fully understand what aspects of those interactions are most effective and for whom,” said Nancy Gee, PhD, Professor and Director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) at Virginia Commonwealth University, the study’s principal investigator. “This study seeks to address this gap and provide further support for animal-assisted interventions as a way of addressing loneliness for this at-risk population.”  The goal of this new VCU research project is to collect pilot data in a population that is at-risk for loneliness...

Press Releases
New Research Results Indicate Adopted Shelter Cats May Acclimate Well into Families of Children with Autism without Experiencing Significant Stress

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and EveryCat Health Foundation today announced the results of a new study published in the open-access Journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, “Exploratory Study of Fecal Cortisol, Weight, and Behavior as Measures of Stress and Welfare in Shelter Cats During Assimilation Into Families of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder”, providing preliminary evidence that temperament screened shelter cats adopted by families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) did not experience a significant increase in stress after adoption by their new families. “Benefits of companion animals in homes of families of children with autism have been identified, but little is known about the welfare of pets in these homes,” said Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, Research Scientist at the University of Missouri and Principal Investigator. “These results provide a starting point for future research exploring cat welfare, while also identifying a set of steps families can take to effectively mitigate stress in their new feline family members.” “HABRI is particularly proud to have supported the Feline Friends study, which has already demonstrated that temperament screened shelter cats can help families of children with ASD,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “Results from this new publication focused on cat welfare are important to ensuring successful, long-lasting human-animal bonds.” “We know how meaningful companion animals are to those with ASD and are honored to have supported this groundbreaking research showing that cats can safely and healthily fill this role is truly a win for the cats and their people,” expressed Jackie Ott Jaakola, Executive Director of EveryCat Health Foundation. This exploratory study measured stress in temperament screened shelter cats adopted by families of children with ASD by using fecal cortisol, weight and a behavior stress measure. Findings suggest that the cats in the study acclimated...

HABRI