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 Research Studies to Dig Deeper into the Health Benefits of Companion Animals for Vulnerable Populations
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced funding for five new research projects focused on the positive effects of human-animal interaction on human health. These new studies will examine the influence of pet ownership, pet caretaking or animal-assisted therapy on a wide array of health conditions among a varied group of populations, including older adults, children with pediatric cancer, and suicidal adolescents. “With human-animal interaction research more clearly documenting the impact of the human-animal bond on mental and physical health, it is important to support research on how companion animals can benefit vulnerable and at-risk populations,” said Bob Vetere, HABRI President and Chair of the Board of Trustees. “This new group of research projects is particularly exciting as two of the studies will add to existing HABRI research results on the benefits of dog walking for physical activity and the impact of therapy animal visitation on the quality of life of pediatric cancer patients. Two studies will look at mental health and preventing suicide among teenagers, a population that is often overlooked.” Out of a total of more than 40 proposals received, HABRI has funded the following five research projects: Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD (University of Sydney): Increasing Dog-walking in the Community: What is the Potential of Wearable Dog Trackers? The PAWalks Trial Megan MacDonald, PhD and Monique Udell, PhD (Oregon State University): Joint Physical and Social Well-being for Adolescents and Their Family Dog Mary Jo Gilmer, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN (Vanderbilt University): Pilot Study of the Effects of Animal-Assisted Interactions (AAI) on Quality of Life in Children with Life-Threatening Conditions (LTC) and their Parents Sandy Branson, PhD, MSN, RN (Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth): Pet Caretaking and Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in Older U.S. Adults Participating in a Nationwide Longitudinal Probability Cohort Study Alexander...
New Research to Study Relationship between Pet Ownership and Youth Development in a Nationally-Representative Dataset
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today a new research project to determine the role of pet ownership in predicting trajectories of youth development. Funded by a grant from HABRI, researchers at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University aim to determine whether there are systematic differences between families who own pets and those without pets with regard to demographics, social environment, and health status, and if these factors predict patterns of pet ownership over time. “Existing human-animal interaction research is limited in exploring how race, ethnicity, and culture are related to pet ownership, and because the sample analyzed in this study will be nationally representative, we hope to have data on a very diverse group of youth,” said the study’s Principal Investigator, Megan Kiely Mueller, PhD, the Elizabeth Arnold Stevens Junior Professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “This research project will capitalize on a rigorous study design, and a measurement model specifically designed for understanding how environmental experiences influence cognitive and social development and health outcomes.” The goal of the study is to leverage available data from a unique population-based longitudinal study of adolescent development, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), by analyzing pet ownership information to answer key questions about the relationship between human-animal interaction and trajectories of youth development, including social interaction and support, academic performance, mental health and physical activity. The study includes a baseline cohort of over 11,800 youth enrolled in the ABCD study at 9-10 years of age and their parents/guardians, who will be followed for ten years. In addition to assessing youth development, the study will use the ABCD data to assess if there are systematic differences between families who own...
Email Reminder + Dog = Increased Physical Activity
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced the results of a study exploring the effects of an email mediated intervention to increase walking in dog owners and non-dog owners, conducted by researchers at Purdue University and published in the journal Clinical Nursing Research. Findings of the study showed that a simple email intervention sharing the importance of walking and the positive impact of walking on a dog’s health were effective tools to promote walking. These interventions caused participants to increase and maintain dog walking over a 12-month period. Email intervention for non-dog owners also increased weekly minutes of walking compared with baseline measures and control groups, however dog owners accumulated significantly more walking minutes per week than non-dog owners. “Walking is an easy, accessible way to increase physical activity, which is important for the health of people and their pets,” said the principal investigator on the study, Elizabeth A. Richards, PhD, RN, CHES, of Purdue University. “Because an email reminder is so simple, these findings should be easy to replicate, encouraging dog owners and non-dog owners alike to lead more physically active lifestyles.” Participants assigned to the intervention group received a twice-weekly email message for the first four weeks of the intervention followed by weekly email messages for the next eight weeks. The emails attempted to influence confidence through a variety of mechanisms which the investigators hypothesized would directly influence dog walking for dog owners and walking for non-dog owners. Previous studies have supported that dog owners who walk their dogs are motivated to do so because of dog-related support for walking. A number of dog-owner participants in this study anecdotally reported that their ability to maintain behavior change in physical activity was in part due to the dog expecting a walk and conditioning the owner to comply. “With...