Publication of Largest-Ever Study on Pets in the Classroom Indicates Positive Impact on Academic and Social Behavior | HABRI

Publication of Largest-Ever Study on Pets in the Classroom Indicates Positive Impact on Academic and Social Behavior

HABRI-Funded Study Shows Classroom Pets Help Improve Social and Cognitive Development in Children

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.”

Research Citation:

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.

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. 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.

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

###

Press Releases
New Research Indicates Shelter Cat Fostering Reduces Loneliness in Older Adults Living Alone

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced the results of a HABRI-funded feasibility study that suggests fostering a shelter cat may contribute to alleviating loneliness and improving mental health in older adults living independently alone. This study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B, was conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia and Brenau University. The research team, led by Dr. Sherry Sanderson, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, explored the impact of fostering a shelter cat on loneliness and well-being in older adults living alone. The research also investigated whether these older adults would express interest in adopting their foster cat after common barriers, such as access to veterinary care, were removed. “The ill-effects of loneliness and social isolation, particularly for older adults, are well-documented, and more strategies are needed to improve health outcomes for this population,” said Dr. Don Scott, MD, MHS, Campus Director of Geriatrics and Palliative Care and Associate Professor of Medicine at August University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership, and co-investigator on this research project. “This project shows that fostering cats can make a measurable difference in the lives of older adults living alone.” “Our results show that by removing some perceived barriers to pet ownership, including pet deposit fees, pet adoption fees, pet care supplies and veterinary support, we can not only help older adults live healthier, happier lives but we can also spur the fostering and adoption of shelter cats into loving homes,” added Dr. Sanderson. Study participants were recruited through in-person presentations and flyers posted at The Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA), regional community organizations, senior living facilities and local and regional publications. Participants completed health...

Press Releases
New Research to Investigate Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy for Older Adults with Parkinson’s Disease

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today a new research project to determine the effects of an equine-assisted therapy (EAT) program on the lives of older adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The study, How does 8 weeks of equine-assisted therapy affect older adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?, led by researchers from the Texas Woman’s University School of Health Promotion and Kinesiology, will compare bradykinesia severity and functional outcomes before and after 8 weeks of EAT in adults with PD, and characterize the resulting human-animal interaction “While research studies examining the physiological benefits of horseback riding have been conducted before, there is a lack of published research regarding the physical adaptations of EAT in adults with PD,” said the study’s Principal Investigator, B. Rhett Rigby, PhD, Texas Woman’s University. “We hope that the results of this study will further the efficacy of EAT as a novel treatment modality for this population, and lead to a more widespread acceptance by healthcare practitioners.” Thirty men diagnosed with PD, aged 40 to 80 years, will be recruited and randomly assigned into two groups. Fifteen participants will complete eight weeks of EAT, and fifteen participants will complete a similar protocol on a horseback riding simulator. The EAT intervention will contain 17 total sessions across a period of eight weeks, and a licensed physical therapist will oversee and conduct all EAT sessions. A similar protocol will be in place for the simulated riding session. Preliminary data in the form of two pilot studies suggest that an improvement in postural sway and balance is present after both EAT and simulated riding in older adults with balance deficits. The study will seek to determine if these adaptions will lead to improvements with other hallmark features of PD pathophysiology, including bradykinesia, posture, balance, and gait. Researchers expect that individuals...

Press Releases
Nominations Open for Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today at Global Pet Expo that the public is now invited to submit nominations for the Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards, a program designed to recognize individuals, companies and organizations beyond pet care that are advancing the human-animal bond and creating a more pet-friendly society. “HABRI is inspired by so many dedicated individuals, companies and organizations that are honoring the human-animal bond,” said Steven Feldman, president of HABRI. “Although there are amazing pet care innovations on display here at Global Pet Expo, we are specifically looking for nominations from outside of the pet space. Innovations that connect pets and people can come from all corners of society.” “PetSmart Charities is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor for the Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities. “These awards help highlight and share innovations that benefit people and pets everywhere, and we look forward to celebrating those that are doing wonderful work to advance the human-animal bond.” The submission deadline for award nominations is May 20, 2024. To submit a nomination, please visit www.habri.org/hab-innovation-awards. Nominations can be submitted in four award categories: Pet-Inclusive Culture: Recognizes companies, organizations, or institutions creating a pet inclusive culture within communities, groups and/or workplaces. Public Service: Recognizes organizations with impactful programs to protect and strengthen the human-animal bond in their communities. Pet-Inclusive Infrastructure: Recognizes companies, organizations, or institutions purposefully developing technology, transportation, architecture, policies or environments to safeguard and strengthen the human-animal bond. Media: Recognizes an individual, media outlet or creative content that positively educates people about and illuminates key aspects of the human-animal bond. Nominations...

HABRI