New Research to Inform Best Practices in Animal-Assisted Therapy | HABRI

New Research to Inform Best Practices in Animal-Assisted Therapy

Human Animal Bond Research Institute and Pet Partners Award Grant to University of British Columbia

Washington, D.C. (October 28, 2019) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners announced today a grant to the University of British Columbia for a new study, Direct Experimental Assessment of Therapy Dog Handlers on Child and Dog Behavior During Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI). This study will aim to determine how different therapy animal handler styles influence stress behavior in both children and dogs during animal-assisted therapy sessions.

“Pet Partners has long been the gold standard for therapy animal handler training and this study will help provide scientific evidence to guide handler best practices to maximize the benefits of the intervention,” said Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. “We are proud to partner with HABRI in supporting human-animal bond research that will help inform best practices and foster consistency in the profession.”

“Therapy dog handlers are trained to be active in sessions and interact with the participants and the dogs alike, however the handling procedures can be inconsistent, and often not even measured across sessions,” added Megan Arant, MS, Principal Investigator. “It is possible that the handler variation of in-session procedures with their own therapy dogs is also influencing the participants through altering the way the dog is presented as well as altering the dogs’ own behavior, which could cause discrepancies in the therapeutic effect. Therefore, it is beneficial to create a consistent standard for how handlers are instructed to interact with their dogs in AAI sessions to ensure homogeneity.”

This study aims to provide empirical data on how to improve outcomes of AAI sessions. Specifically, the study focuses on one largely neglected area, namely how the owner-handler of the therapy dogs interacts with their own dog in the session, and subsequently influences the dog’s behavior and the therapeutic effect of the session. By targeting handler behavior and manipulating factors such as leash restriction and food delivery, the researchers will provide meaningful evidence that can push the field of AAI further forward and create better session outcomes for many different populations while highlighting the wellbeing of the therapy dog.

For this experiment, the researchers will recruit 21 therapy dog teams and 21 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A within-subject group design with repeated measures will be used to determine the outcomes of typically-employed handler styles. While the study’s design will include an analysis of differing handling styles, all interactions with the therapy animals will uphold the highest possible considerations of animal welfare as well as Pet Partners’ therapy animal standards of practice. Investigations of effects of these common handling styles will be conducted through behavioral observations using the validated OHAIRE-V3 coding system and salivary cortisol measures. Principal Investigator Megan Arant, MS, and co-investigators Alexandra Protopopova, PhD, University of British Columbia, and Erica Feuerbacher, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, expect that the most restrictive handling of the therapy dogs will have negative effects for both dogs and children with ASD. They predict that restrictive handling will result in less therapeutic benefit of the dog for the child as measured by behavioral coding and salivary cortisol. They also predict that restrictive handling will result in increased stress and salivary cortisol concentration of the dogs.

“While research demonstrates the benefit of animal-assisted therapy for helping children with ASD through reducing anxiety and stress and helping improve social skills and behavior, consistency in handler procedures is needed and scientific research can help determine what is most optimal,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “HABRI is grateful for the partnership and support from Pet Partners for this important research, which will help more broadly account for the therapeutic effects of therapy dogs.”

 

 

About Pet Partners

Pet Partners is the national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted interventions. Since the organization’s inception in 1977, the science proving these benefits has become indisputable. With more than 13,000 registered teams making more than 3 million visits annually, Pet Partners serves as the nation’s most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams. Pet Partners teams visit with patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students, veterans with PTSD, and those approaching end of life, improving human health and wellbeing through the human-animal bond. With the recent release of its Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Interventions and international expansion, Pet Partners is globally recognized as the industry gold standard. For more information on Pet Partners, visit www.petpartners.org.

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.

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

###

Press Releases
Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group™ Supports Human-Animal Bond Research

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group™, one of the oldest U.S. providers of pet health insurance, has become an official supporter of HABRI and its research on the human health benefits of companion animals. “For twenty years, we’ve been committed to helping people get access to reliable and affordable pet insurance coverage,” said Bob Capobianco, Senior Vice President, Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group. “Supporting HABRI research is important because it connects the positive impact that pets play in our lives, and closely aligns with the work we do to help pets live longer and healthier.” “HABRI is thrilled to welcome Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group as a supporter,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “From HABRI research, we know that pets are considered part of the family, and that the growing importance of pets in our lives has driven demand for pet-inclusive policies and benefits at home, in the workplace, and beyond. Pet health insurance plays a key role in strengthening the human-animal bond and supporting the needs of our furry family members, and HABRI is thrilled to be working with Crum & Forster to help more people and pets benefit from healthy human-animal bonds.” Scientific evidence increasingly shows 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 impact more than just human health. Findings from a recent HABRI survey of 2,000 pet owners demonstrate that knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond motivates pet owners to take better care of their pets. From providing pets with higher quality nutrition to purchasing...

Press Releases
New Research Shows Cats Help Children with Autism

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced the results of a new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing titled, “Exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism: Impact on children’s social skills and anxiety,” demonstrating that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience increases in empathy and decreases in problem behaviors after adoption of a shelter cat into their families. “Our study found that children with ASD experienced significant increases in the social skill of empathy, significant decreases in problem behaviors including bullying and hyperactivity/inattention, and also less separation anxiety after the introduction of a shelter cat,” said Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, MEd, RN, research scientist at the University of Missouri Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI). “Previous research has focused on interactions of dogs with children who have ASD, but dogs may not provide the best fit for all children and their families, especially given the hypersensitivities to sound that are common among children with ASD,” Carlisle said. “We hope the results of this study will help encourage more families to consider the possibility of cat ownership and help more shelter cats find loving, deserving homes.” “For the first time, we have scientific research that shows how beneficial cats can be for families of children with ASD,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI, the primary funder of the study. “Selecting a suitable family pet is an important decision. Families with a child with ASD now have more information and more choices, and we hope that this will also help more shelter cats find good homes.” Findings of the Feline Friends study, led by researchers at the University of Missouri, demonstrated that children with an adopted shelter cat had better empathy and less separation anxiety, as well as fewer problem behaviors exhibited by less externalizing, bullying...

Press Releases
New Research to Explore the Health Benefits of Cat Fostering for Older Adults

Funded by a two-year grant from the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), faculty from the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Family and Consumer Science and the Obesity Initiative are collaborating on a new research project to examine the impact of pet companionship on mental and emotional health in older adults living alone. “Housing and health are essential to overall well-being, a fact known to pertain to both humans and animals”, said Heidi Ewen, assistant professor, Colleges of Public Health and Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia. “We have proposed a unique solution to help older adults living alone at home establish new social bonds, by pairing them with homeless foster cats.” Partnering with the Athens Area Humane Society and UGA’s Campus Cats organization, a rescue group that works with homeless cats on campus, the team will match foster parents and felines. The team is led by Heidi Ewen and Sherry Sanderson, a veterinarian and associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Beginning in October, the team will begin to identify older adults in the Athens Area that are willing to foster cats. The 34 pairs of cats and seniors will then be interviewed and assessed throughout the study to determine whether having a pet in the house leads to changes in their emotional well-being. Assessments include, loneliness, emotional well-being, and purpose of life scales as well as measures of attachment to, and comfort from, the foster cat. Findings are expected to demonstrate improvements in mental and behavioral health in foster parents including reduction in loneliness and depression, and that attachment to the companion animal will increase the duration of fostering or lead to adoption of the foster cat. “As efforts around the country have increased to reduce euthanasia rates of homeless pets, there is an increasing reliance upon foster homes to bridge the time between...

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!