Policy Forum Highlights Data on the Vital Role of Pets for Better Mental Health | HABRI

Policy Forum Highlights Data on the Vital Role of Pets for Better Mental Health

Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) Works with Partners to Increase Access to Pets for Mental Health

Washington, D.C. (May 23, 2024) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) hosted its first-ever Spring Policy Forum focused on Mental Health and Companion Animals, convening leaders in the pet care community and partners in the mental health space to move society toward more widespread awareness of the important role of companion animals for improved mental health.

The Policy Forum program featured presentations addressing research, practice, and policies associated with this important topic and delivered by expert speakers from a wide array of disciplines. Speakers included Susan Trachman, MD, a Board-Certified Psychiatrist who talked about the role of pet ownership in supporting mental health and Mental Health America (MHA) and HABRI unveiled results of a survey of 4,000 MHA constituents on the care and resource-related needs of those impacted by mental health related to companion animals.

The MHA-HABRI survey found that pet owners overwhelmingly report positive health benefits resulting from their pet, that there is great interest and need for resources related to pets and mental health, and that this is particularly true among those living with a mental or physical disability:

  • 98% of pet owners report at least one health benefit resulting from their pet, including reduced feelings of loneliness (73%), providing comfort (73%) and a source of happiness (79%)
  • 71% of respondents (76% of those with a disability) are interested in working with a mental health professional who incorporates pets or animal-assisted interventions (AAI) into their practice
  • Those with a disability are more likely to say they are interested in pets to support their mental health (79%) compared to those without a disability (50%)
  • 93% of respondents agree there should be more support for pet ownership and AAIs in society

“Mental Health America is proud to partner with HABRI to bring forward new data from our constituency on the experiences, benefits and challenges related to pets and mental health,” said America Paredes, PhD. “We found that not only is pet ownership incredibly important for so many people, but also that more than three quarters of those living with a disability want to work with a mental health professional who incorporates pets in their practice. Our survey showed that it is hard to find reliable information about pets and mental health, revealing a great need for resources and information related to pets and animal-assisted interventions.”

“HABRI is proud to bring together a diverse group of leaders in mental health, veterinary medicine, research, animal-assisted interventions, pet care, and public policy to elevate the conversation about pets and mental health,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “Armed with research, new insights, model practices and policy considerations, HABRI’s goal is to drive the conversation on how best to support pet ownership and the human-animal bond for a healthier society.”

HABRI’s Spring Policy Forum is sponsored by leading pet care and animal health companies and organizations; American Pet Products Association (APPA), Petco Love, Mars Petcare, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and whiskerDocs.

“Policy Forum sponsors and all of HABRI’s partners are committed to supporting better mental health for pet owners, veterinarians and everyone who can benefit from the research-backed benefits of the human-animal bond,” Feldman added.

For more information, please visit www.habri.org/policy-forum. Images available upon request.

About About HABRI

HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that funds innovative scientific research to document the health benefits of companion animals; educates the public about human-animal bond research; and advocates for the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit http://www.habri.org.

Contact

Logan Trautman

logan@inspireprgroup.com

(412)-915-4038

###

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
HABRI Awards Grant to Green Chimneys

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it had awarded a $24,000 grant to Green Chimneys, a leader in animal-assisted therapy and educational programs, for a new research study, Animal-­‐Assisted Social Skills Training for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This grant to Green Chimneys advances the HABRI Foundation’s mission to better document the effects of animals on human health through scientific research,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “Animals can play a positive role in the lives of those with autism, and we look forward to learning more as a result of this study. Further exploring the effect of dogs on children with ASD, the purpose of this study is to develop and test an animal-assisted social skills intervention. As one of the first research projects undertaken by The Sam & Myra Ross Institute at Green Chimneys, the 12-week study will include a controlled trial with 32 Green Chimneys students ages 8-15, comparing an animal-assisted social skills group and a traditional social skills training group without an animal present. It is predicted that participants in the social skills training group that incorporates work with dogs will exhibit greater levels of change in social skills, perspective taking, theory of mind and decreased feelings of isolation when compared with those participants receiving the traditional social skills training. If significant results are found, it will further demonstrate that animal-assisted interventions are a valid approach for teaching children with ASD the skills necessary to engage with peers and will further support the role of the human-animal bond in advancing children with developmental delays. Green Chimneys’ long history of incorporating animal-­assisted activities into therapeutic treatment makes it an ideal laboratory for conducting research in the area of human-animal interaction (HAI),” said Dr. Steven Klee, Green Chimneys Associate Executive...

HABRI