Washington, D.C. (August 28, 2019) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), The Pet Care Trust, and American Humane announced today the online publication of the Pets in the Classroom Study, which assessed the social, behavioral, and academic effects of the presence of small, resident classroom animals for 591 third and fourth-grade students across the United States over the 2016-2017 school year. The study’s findings suggest that classroom pets may help improve academic performance and social skills in children.
“The utilization of classroom pets in third and fourth grade U.S. classrooms appears to hold significant benefits for children’s social, behavioral, and academic development,” said Amy McCullough, PhD, Principal Investigator and Senior Research Advisor, American Humane. “Findings show that the presence of pets in the classroom may increase social skills and competence for children in the third and fourth grades and, additionally, be effective in decreasing select problem behaviors in the classroom.”
American Humane’s research team recruited a total of 41 classrooms across 19 schools to take part in the study. A total of 591 third and fourth grade students from 15 U.S. states were enrolled in this study. Overall, 20 participating classrooms had a pet and 21 did not. Teachers, students, and parents were asked to complete survey instruments at three designated time points over the course of the study period. Teachers were not asked to change the way in which they taught and/or utilized the pet in their classroom in an effort to assess the impact of typically occurring classroom pet interaction.
Across the school year, teachers with classroom pets, which ranged from guinea pigs to small reptiles, saw significantly greater increases in overall social skills, including every subscale of the social skills measure (communication, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, engagement, and self-control); social competence; and academic reading competence. In addition, teachers reported significantly greater decreases in internalizing behaviors (e.g., withdrawal) and hyperactivity/inattention among their students, as compared to teachers in the control condition, without classroom pets. Parent respondents indicated they saw significantly greater increases in pro-social behaviors among their children compared to parents with children in classrooms without pets.
Teachers in the intervention condition used their classroom pets for a variety of purposes (e.g., as a reward for improved behavior/academics, to help calm/relax students in stressful situations), and a little over half of the teachers taught formal lessons that focused on or utilized the pet, teaching about responsibility, animal care and welfare, and a variety of other topics.
“The Pet Care Trust’s Pets in the Classroom Program, a grant program which offers funding to teachers to purchase and maintain classroom pets, provides children with an opportunity to interact with pets on a daily basis – an experience that can help shape their lives for years to come,” said Jackie King, Executive Director, The Pet Care Trust. “While teachers have shared with us story after story about how their classroom pets have helped shy kids open up, struggling readers build confidence, aggressive children develop nurturing tendencies, and apathetic students gain a new desire for learning, this newly published research helps validate our program’s positive impact, and bring us closer to our goal of helping 10 million students build self-esteem, learn important life skills, and have a positive experience in the classroom with the help of a pet.”
“The results of this study demonstrate pets in the classroom positively contribute to child social and cognitive development,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “HABRI is proud to support this important research on the benefits of the human-animal bond in schools so that more children can grow up knowing firsthand the importance of a healthy relationship with a pet in their lives.”
McCullough, A., Ruehrdanz, A., Garthe, R., Hellman, C., and O’Haire, M., (2019) Measuring the Social, Behavioral, and Academic Effects of Classroom Pets on Third and Fourth-Grade Students. Human Animal Interaction Bulletin. Advance online publication.
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. It is committed to ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals. Our leadership programs are First to Serve® in promoting and nurturing the bonds between animals and people. For more information, please visit www.americanhumane.org.
About The Pet Care Trust
Incorporated in 1990, The Pet Care Trust is a non-profit, charitable, public foundation whose mission is to help promote public understanding of the joys and benefits of pets through education, support, and interaction, and to enhance knowledge about companion animals through research and education. To learn more about the Trust, visit www.petsintheclassroom.org/about.
More Press Releases
Pet Food Institute Supports Human-Animal Bond Research
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that the Pet Food Institute (PFI) has made a $25,000 contribution to support research on the benefits of the human-animal bond for people and pets. “PFI is proud to support HABRI, whose important research on the health benefits of pet ownership advances our collective awareness about the significant role pets play in our lives,” said Cathleen Enright, PhD, President & CEO, Pet Food Institute. “As the voice for U.S. pet food and treat makers, PFI and our members understand and celebrate the special bond between humans and pets.” “For the nearly 150 million dogs and cats in the U.S., health and wellbeing starts with sound nutrition and safe food,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “Research shows that healthy pets make healthy pet-owners, and HABRI is proud to have the support of PFI, an organization committed to supporting long and healthy lives for pets.” HABRI has assembled a growing body of scientific evidence showing that pets improve heart health; alleviate depression; increase well-being; support child health and development; and contribute to healthy aging. In addition, companion animals can assist in the treatment of a broad range of conditions from post-traumatic stress to Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of the human-animal bond can be found at both ends of the leash. Findings from a recently-published HABRI survey of 2,000 pet owners demonstrate that the more they know about the scientific research on the human-animal bond the more likely they are to take better care of their pets, including providing pets with higher-quality nutrition and keeping up with visits to the veterinarian. “Spreading awareness of the health benefits of pet ownership improves pet health and welfare,” Feldman added. “PFI and its member companies are great partners to share this message.” PFI, whose members make up 98 percent of all U.S. pet food...
Study Finds Dogs De-Stress Families with Autistic Children
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation announced today the results of a long-term study to explore the effects of pet dogs on families with children with autism spectrum disorder, just published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. The findings of the study showed significantly improved family functioning of families with a dog compared to those without. The study also found a reduction in parent-child dysfunctional interactions among families that had a dog. “While there is growing evidence that animal-assisted therapy can aid in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders, this study is one of the first to examine how pet dog ownership can also improve the lives of those more widely affected by autism,” said the principal investigator on the study, Professor Daniel Mills, BVSc, PhD, from the University of Lincoln, UK. “We found a significant, positive relationship between parenting stress of the child’s main caregiver and their attachment to the family dog. This highlights the importance of the bond between the carer and their dog in the benefits they gain.” HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman said: “Parents of children with autism can experience increased anxiety and stress, and now we have strong scientific evidence to show that pets can have positive effects on these quality-of-life issues. Families with an autistic child should consider pet ownership as a way to improve family harmony.” This...
New Survey: 1 in 5 Pet Owners have had a Pet Recommended by a Doctor or Therapist
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today key findings from its benchmark survey of U.S. pet owners. The survey found that growing importance and knowledge of the human-animal bond drive actions to improve both human and animal wellbeing. “These new results capture how pets are front-and-center in our lives, a trend accelerated by the pandemic,” said Steven Feldman, president of HABRI. “Pets are so important, especially to our mental health, that more than 1-in-5 pet owners said a doctor or therapist had recommended pet ownership.” HABRI first fielded its benchmark survey in 2016, providing a window into how attitudes, knowledge and behaviors have changed over the last five years. Important increases were noted in those reporting health benefits related to pet ownership and time spent with pets. • 76% of pet owners report that their personal health has improved as a result of owning a pet, up from 71% in 2016 (+5%) • 87% of pet owners say that they have experienced mental health improvements from pet ownership, up from 74% in 2016 (+13%) • 83% of pet owners say they spend most of or a big part or most of the day with their pets, up from 78% in 2016 (+5%) Connected to these increases, more people are aware of and talking about the human-animal bond with each other and with their medical professionals. 97% of pet owners are aware of at least one scientifically-documented health benefit of the human-animal bond 64% of pet owners have had a conversation with someone in the past year about the health benefits of pet ownership 22%, more than 1-in-5, pet owners have had a pet recommended for their health by a doctor or therapist 63% of pet owners have discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with their veterinarian (75% of Gen Z/Millennials), up from 56% in 2016 (+7%) Results strongly indicate that the more pet owners learn about scientific research on the benefits of the human-animal bond, the more likely they are to take...