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
New Study to Investigate Impact of Pets on Recovery of the Gut Microbiome Following Antibiotic Regimen in Older Adults
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a new research grant, titled “Sharing is caring: can pets protect their owners against antibiotic-associated disruption of the gut microbiome?”, to the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) to investigate whether pets are a source of microbiota that can help restore deficiencies in their owner’s gut microbiome. “A growing number of studies have documented the ability of animal contact to impact the human microbiome (collection of microbes in the intestines) in ways that may help prevent certain types of disease, such as cardiovascular disease and asthma,” said Dr. Laurel Redding, VMD, PhD, DACVPM, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Penn Vet, the project’s Principal Investigator. “In conducting this study, our goal is to shed light on the microbial exchanges that occur between pets and pet owners and assess whether pets can mitigate disruption of their owner’s gut microbiome following antibiotic therapy.” This groundbreaking project will follow pet owners over 60 years old who are taking antibiotics for dental implant placement. Antibiotics disrupt the native gut microbiome, which can result in a range of outcomes, from mild diarrhea to severe “C. diff” infection (infection with Clostridioides difficile), and the elderly are particularly at risk for some of these adverse outcomes. Recovery from this type of disruption is not well understood, and factors that promote this recovery are only beginning to be explored. Researchers hypothesize that the gut microbiomes of pet owners and their pets will resemble each other prior to the course of antibiotics, diverge during the disruption phase, then steadily converge during the recovery phase. In demonstrating that animal contact can yield beneficial effects on the restoration of the human gut microbiome, results of this study may reduce concerns about and even promote contact with household...
New Research to Study Impacts of Pet Ownership on Healthy Aging in Healthcare and Social Service Settings
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today a grant to the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging for a new study, Uncovering Pet Ownership Benefits, Challenges, and Resources in an Aging Society: Promoting Healthy Aging in Healthcare and Community Environments. This study aims to identity pet ownership issues raised in healthcare and social service settings by older adults and their caregivers. “Addressing the topic of pet ownership can promote honest and productive communication, uncovering risks and benefits to patients’ health,” said the study’s Principal Investigator, Jessica Bibbo, PhD, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. “We expect the results of this systematic investigation will elevate pet ownership issues from anecdotal professional experiences to recognized factors that shape the values and preferences of older adults, people living with dementia, and caregivers.” This study will survey a large interdisciplinary sample of professionals working with older adults, people living with dementia and caregivers about pet ownership. The researchers aim to complete three objectives as part of this comprehensive study: The first will be to identify the prevalence of pet ownership issues encountered among an extensive inter-professional sample of health care and social service organization professionals working directly with older adults and their caregivers. The second will be to identify specific benefits, challenges and resources provided by pet ownership and the human-animal bond encountered by professionals working with older adults and their caregivers. Finally, researchers will apply these results to create and disseminate information to health care and social service professionals on the benefits, challenges, and resources provided by pet ownership and the human-animal bond to promote the healthy aging of older adults and their caregivers. “The desire to experience the human-animal bond does not end with a diagnosis of dementia,”...
ANNOUNCING THE HUMAN ANIMAL BOND INNOVATION AWARD WINNERS
Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) Honors: Tito’s Handmade Vodka Pet-Inclusive Culture Category The Street Dog Coalition Public Service Category The Dr. Vernard Hodges It Takes a Village Foundation Media Category Amazon Products & Services Category BestyBnB Pet-Inclusive Infrastructure Category The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced the winners of its annual Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards, which recognize companies and organizations with innovative products and programs designed to advance the human-animal bond and create a more pet-friendly society. The 2023 Human Animal Bond Innovation Award winners are: Pet-Inclusive Culture: Tito’s Handmade Vodka Tito’s Handmade Vodka has been proud to call itself a team of “dog people” for more than twenty-five years. At first, it was just Tito and “DogJo” out at the distillery. Soon, stray dogs started showing up to receive food and care, creating a tradition of distillery dogs that continues to this day. Since those early days, Tito’s has rescued over 120 distillery dogs and supported thousands of animal-focused nonprofits. From the distillery to home offices around the country and beyond, Tito’s culture always includes canine companions – affectionately known as co-woofers – with pet-friendly workspaces and regular “yappy hours”. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is always ready to celebrate the human-animal bond, serving as a model of pet-inclusive culture. The Pet-Inclusive Culture category is sponsored by Nationwide Pet. Public Service Category: Street Dog Coalition The Street Dog Coalition (SDC) works to strengthen the human-animal bond in over sixty communities with street clinics to provide free veterinary care to pets of people who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness. They focus on providing services that are anchored around a One Health model that recognizes the way that people, animals and their communities all affect...