Washington, D.C. (February 20, 2020) — Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), with support from a broad consortium of partners, today released a report that offers a roadmap for advancing research and best practices that address how human-animal interaction can serve as an important solution to the growing epidemic of loneliness and social isolation.
“There is increasing evidence that pets can play an important role in helping people feel less lonely and more socially connected,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director, HABRI. “Together with the leadership of Mars Petcare and a group of other experts and stakeholders, HABRI will work to address the crisis of loneliness in our society with the power of the human-animal bond.”
Loneliness currently affects three in five Americans[i] and 9 million people in the United Kingdom.[ii] Loneliness can be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, making it a serious threat to public health.[iii] Mars Petcare and HABRI surveyed 2,000 people in the United States, finding that 85 percent of respondents believe interaction with companion animals can help reduce loneliness.[iv]
“We have a responsibility to take the scientific exploration further when evidence to date shows us that pets can be part of addressing such a significant societal issue,” commented Rena Crumplen, Global Vice President of Research and Development, Mars Petcare. “It’s important that we undertake rigorous studies to understand how companion animals may provide a benefit for those suffering from conditions associated with social isolation and loneliness.”
The new report, Addressing the Social Isolation and Loneliness Epidemic with the Power of Companion Animals, brings forward the recommendations from the Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals, along with the continued work of a broad consortium of human health advocates, mental health practitioners, veterinarians and human-animal interaction researchers. The report outlines the following three-pronged approach to facilitate the role of HAI and pet ownership in addressing social isolation and loneliness:
- Advance High-Quality Research: Advance human-animal interaction (HAI) research to glean a better understanding for whom and under what circumstances interactions with companion animals may be effective for alleviating social isolation and loneliness.
- Help Address Barriers and Provide Solutions: Identify ways to remove barriers to access for pet ownership and human-animal interaction for those who may face hurdles and stand to benefit most – including older adults and people with mental health challenges.
- Share and Support the Proliferation of Best Practices: Support and help advance best practices in HAI and for companion animal ownership that help prevent, reduce and mitigate social isolation and loneliness. Ensure animal-assisted interventions in approved settings – including hospitals, nursing homes and within our communities – are grounded in science, meet high standards of animal welfare, and have the broadest societal impact.
Organizations that have contributed to the report, through participation in the Summit and the ongoing consortium working groups, include:
- Alliance for Aging Research
- American Pet Products Association
- Animal Policy Group
- Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
- Association of Child Life Professionals
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Baltimore VA Medical Center
- Banfield Pet Hospital
- California State Polytechnic University
- Canine Companions for Independence
- Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Chicago Headquarters
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
- Florida State University
- Found Animals Foundation
- The Gerontological Society of America
- Guide Dogs for the Blind
- Humane Rescue Alliance
- International Council on Active Aging
- Mental Health America
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
- National Association for Home Care & Hospice
- National Council on Aging
- North American Veterinary Community
- Petco Foundation
- Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
- Pet Partners
- Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Sick Cells
- University of Maryland, Baltimore
- University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine
- University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine
- Village to Village Network
- Virginia Commonwealth University
Click here to access: Addressing the Social Isolation and Loneliness Epidemic with the Power of Companion Animals. To learn more about research into the benefits of pets on loneliness, please visit www.waltham.com and www.habri.org. To learn more about the benefits of pets and how you can take action in your community so that more people and pets can live healthy lives together, visit www.BetterCitiesforPets.com.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
+44 203 3047 2629
1. Cigna Ipsos USA loneliness survey. January 2020. Available here: https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2020/cigna-takes-action-to-combat-the-rise-of-loneliness-and-improve-mental-wellness-in-america
2. British Red Cross and Co-op Trapped in a bubble: An Investigation into Triggers for Loneliness in the UK. Conducted by Kantar Public. December 2016. Available here: https://www.redcross.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/action-on-loneliness
3. Testimony before the US Senate Aging Committee, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., 2017; https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SCA_Holt_04_27_17.pdf.
4. HABRI and Mars Petcare Loneliness and Social Isolation Study. Conducted by Edelman Intelligence. December 2018.
About Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (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 about HABRI, please visit www.habri.org.
About Mars Petcare
Part of Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and the pets people love, the 85,000 Associates in Mars Petcare are dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. With 75 years of experience, our portfolio of almost 50 brands serves the health and nutrition needs of the world’s pets – including brands PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN®, NUTRO™, GREENIES™, SHEBA®, CESAR®, IAMS™ and EUKANUBA™ as well as The WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute which has advanced research in the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Mars Petcare is also a leading veterinary health provider through a network of over 2,000 pet hospitals including BANFIELD™, BLUEPEARL™, PET PARTNERS™, VCA™, Linnaeus and AniCura. We’re also active in innovation and technology for pets, with WISDOM PANEL™ genetic health screening and DNA testing for dogs, the WHISTLE™ GPS dog tracker, and LEAP VENTURE STUDIO accelerator and COMPANION FUND™ programs that drive innovation and disruption in the pet care industry. As a family business and guided by our principles, we are privileged with the flexibility to fight for what we believe in – and we choose to fight for: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS.
More Press Releases
Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act Funding Now Available: Aid for Survivors of Domestic Violence and their Pets Arrives at Critical Time
The PAWS Act Coalition, a group of nonprofit and for-profit organizations, is working to raise awareness among the domestic violence shelter community of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program. This program will support shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals, which was made possible by the passage of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act by Congress in 2018. “The PAWS Act funding and new grants mark an important milestone in keeping more pets and their families together,” said Nina Leigh Krueger, president of Nestlé Purina PetCare. “Purina is committed to continuing to work alongside our partners to increase the number of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters so families and their pets can safely leave an abusive situation and heal together.” “With incidents of domestic violence increasing as a result of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, the need for pet-friendly sheltering will also grow, and this funding could not have come at a better time,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). “HABRI is proud to have participated in this two-plus year effort to support the successful implementation of the lifesaving PAWS Act. The PAWS Act Coalition and many in the greater pet care community have worked hard to make this grant program a reality.” The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will provide up to five grants of $400,000 each, to begin on October 1, 2020. The primary goal of this funding is to support shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals. With these grants, the DOJ seeks to increase the number of shelter beds and transitional housing options to meet the needs of domestic violence survivors who need shelter or housing for them and their companion animals. Funding provided by this grant will also provide...
New Study to Examine Wellness Effects of Animals on Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $40,000 grant to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus for a study titled Physiological Wellness Effects of Animal-Assisted Activities in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Specialized Psychiatric Hospital Program. This study will examine the influence of animal-assisted activities on the mental health and wellness of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is hypothesized that children will demonstrate lower physiological arousal when in the presence of dogs. “Anecdotal reports of animal-assisted activities have observed such benefits as decreased anxiety-related behaviors as well as increases in social interactions, language, and safety awareness [in children with ASD],” said Dr. Robin Gabriels, PsyD, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “But we are in need of more research on how canines specifically, can be helpful to this population. It is our hope that our pilot project will provide preliminary evidence to validate the observed benefits and increase understanding of the mechanisms underlying this positive effect.” The two-year crossover study will examine participants during a standard 20-minute social skills group, with 10 minutes of free interaction in the presence of a dog and 10 minutes in the presence of engaging toys. Using specialized wristbands to measure physiological arousal, researchers will compare the levels conducted within the two sessions. “With high-quality scientific research, HABRI can make animal-assisted therapy a valuable addition to the treatments available for people with autism spectrum disorder,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “There is a growing body of scientific evidence that companion animals are important to human health. This research will ultimately help...
PAWS Act Coalition Hails Passage of Appropriations Bill as Key Milestone in Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence and their Pets
The PAWS Act Coalition, a group of nonprofit and for-profit organizations, lauded the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, which, for the first time, will provide $2 million in USDA grants to enable more domestic violence shelters to become pet-friendly so that victims of domestic violence and their pets may shelter and heal together. The grants come one year after the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act was authorized as part of the 2019 Farm Bill, which received bipartisan support in its passage. “These new grants will help expand the network of domestic violence shelters which allow pets to accompany their families seeking safe shelter,” said Nina Leigh Krueger, president of Purina. “This is an important milestone in the coalition’s collective efforts to create safer communities for pets and pet owners, and Purina will remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the bond between domestic abuse survivors and their pets by ensuring they can safely heal together.” The PAWS Act Coalition would like to thank the original co-sponsors of the Pet and Women Safety Act for their leadership and commitment to its passage, especially the lead sponsors Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA-5), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and former Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). The Coalition is also particularly grateful for Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) for spearheading the effort to pass the bill by including its language in the Farm Bill. “No one should have to make the choice between finding safety and staying in a violent situation to protect their pet,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA-5). “This law and the newly appropriated federal dollars will empower survivors with the resources to leave a dangerous situation while being able to continue to care for their pet. I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we will help save lives.” The USDA will now be able...