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.
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.
More Press Releases
Zoetis Becomes First Human-Animal Bond Certified Company
The North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), who jointly founded the Human-Animal Bond Certification program last year, announced today that Zoetis, a leading animal health company, has become the first Human-Animal Bond Certified Company. “With its long-term commitment to funding human-animal bond research, education, professional development and programming, Zoetis is uniquely deserving of this meaningful recognition,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “Being a Human-Animal Bond Certified Company sends a clear message that Zoetis is a leader in strengthening the human-animal bond for the veterinary community and the public.” “For years, Zoetis has been a leading advocate of the bond between humans and animals, and we are honored to have earned this important certification,” said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, Executive Director, Zoetis Petcare Marketing and Chair of the HABRI Board of Trustees. “Veterinarians play a key role in strengthening the relationship between animals and people, and Zoetis is committed to helping them, their clients, and the animals they care for experience the benefits of the human-animal bond.” As part of the certification process, more than two dozen Zoetis employees successfully completed the certification program, receiving training on the science behind the human-animal bond and developing a deep understanding of how this science supports the practice of veterinary medicine. Zoetis is committed to ongoing training for additional employees. The leadership role of Zoetis is evidenced by its commitment to education, and the company was an early supporter of the Human-Animal Bond Certification program. After only one year, more than 500 professionals have signed up for this certification, which offers 22 hours of RACE-approved continuing education credit. Zoetis has also developed educational resources surrounding the bond for its own employees, for the...
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Announces 2015 Research Grants
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced funding for seven research grants in 2015, totaling more than $225,000 dollars. Focused on child health and development, mental health and wellness, and healthy aging, these grants will advance scientific understanding of the human-animal bond and its impact on human health. “As one of the organization’s founders, I am proud of how far we have come in only a few years,” said Bob Vetere, President and CEO of the American Pet Products Association and President of the HABRI Board of Trustees. “With HABRI, we can put science behind what many of us believe – if we take good care of our pets, they will take good care of us!” “The companies and organizations that support HABRI are leaders in supporting the scientific research to advance our knowledge of the human-animal bond,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “Everyone associated with HABRI is grateful for their commitment to this important endeavor.” HABRI has awarded a total of $226,557 to the following recipients and research projects: Sandra Branson, PhD, MSN, RN (University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston): Biobehavioral Effects of Therapy Dog Visitation in Elderly Intensive Care Unit Patients Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP (Yale University): Interactions with Animals to Reduce Children’s Stress Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP (University of Missouri): Companion Animals, Social Engagement, and Psychological Well-Being in Mid and Later Adulthood Annie Petersen, Ed.D (Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies): Listening EARS: How Does Reading to Rabbits Effect the Reading Skills of Third Grade Students? Robin L. Gabriels, PsyD (University of Colorado, Denver): Physiological Wellness Effects of Animal-Assisted Activities in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Specialized Psychiatric Hospital Program Marguerite E. O’Haire, PhD (Purdue University): Pilot Study of the Effects of Service Dogs...
LifeLearn Animal Health Supports Human-Animal Bond Research
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that LifeLearn Animal Health has become an official supporter of HABRI and its research on the mutually beneficial health benefits of companion animals. “LifeLearn is proud to become a HABRI supporter,” said Randy Valpy, President and CEO of LifeLearn. “The bond between people and their pets has been shown to influence the care that pet owners provide for their pets. So, supporting HABRI aligns with LifeLearn’s core commitment to advance animal health and education worldwide.” “LifeLearn is a leader in delivering innovative, trusted, and expert-vetted education resources for both veterinary teams and pet owners, which is what makes them such a good fit for a HABRI partnership,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “LifeLearn can spread the word to key audiences about the strong connection between human and animal health.” HABRI research shows that when pet owners are educated about scientific research on the health benefits of pets, 92% say they are more likely to maintain their pet’s health, including keeping up with vaccines and preventative medicine. Additionally, 88% of pet owners are more likely to provide their pet with quality nutrition and 66% are less likely to skip visits to the veterinarian’s office when educated on the science behind the health benefits of pet ownership. “By creating education platforms that make it easier for people to communicate within the animal health profession, LifeLearn is making an important contribution towards strengthening bonds and improving lives on both ends of the leash,” Feldman added. About LifeLearn Animal Health Celebrating 25 years of continuing innovation and excellence, LifeLearn Inc. provides education and communications products and services to the veterinary profession, animal health organizations, and pet service businesses. LifeLearn’s award-winning competencies in digital media, combined with longstanding veterinary...