By Dr. Becker
Over the last year, the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation has compiled a broad base of research and evidence in seven key areas in which human health can benefit from interaction with animals. These seven areas include:
- Allergy and asthma immunity in children
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
This information can be found at HABRI Central, “an online platform for open research and collaboration into the relationships between humans and animals, specifically companion animals.”
According to HABRI Foundation president Bob Vetere:
“Research exploring the human-animal bond is still a relatively new area of study and we are pleased with the compilation and strong amount of research that has been conducted on these health issues thus far.
“We look forward to continuing the momentum and our commitment to supporting research in multiple fields to help solidify that pets provide people with dozens of health benefits and much more than just love and companionship.”
Recent Research on the Human Animal Bond
- One important finding with regard to post-traumatic stress disorder is that contact with pets can be beneficial to PTSD sufferers because it triggers release of oxytocin (the “love” hormone) and endorphins (“feel good” hormones) in the brain.
- Another significant finding is that owning a pet can protect young children from allergies later in life. Also, people who undergo heart surgery have a better survival rate if they own a pet, as do those who have suffered a heart attack.
- A recent study points to the benefit of pets on the prosocial behavior of children with autism. Autistic children whose families acquired a pet when the kids were 4 to 5 years old showed dramatic improvement in their ability to share and comfort others.
- Studies have also found that the presence of animals can help children with cancer be more social, feel more comfortable and less isolated, and better comply with their treatment guidelines.
- Alzheimer’s actually claims two victims – the person with the disease and his or her caregiver. Research suggests the presence of a pet can improve quality of life for both. For Alzheimer’s patients, animals provide mental stimulation that can play a protective role against cognitive degeneration. For the caregiver, a companion animal can relieve stress, anxiety and feelings of depression, thereby helping the person better cope with their situation.
About the HABRI Foundation
The HABRI Foundation has three founding sponsors that also serve as the Board of Trustees: American Pet Products Association (APPA), Petco, and Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health).
The Foundation also has a steering committee comprised of several organizations and corporations whose names you will recognize, including the American Humane Association (AHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Bayer, Central Garden and Pet, Hartz, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Morris Animal Foundation, Natural Balance, Nestlé Purina PetCare, PetSmart, Radio Systems Corporation, Segrest Farms, Sergeants, and WellPet.
According to their website, the HABRI Foundation’s vision is to:
Achieve formal, widespread scientific recognition that validates the positive roles of pets and animals in the integrated health of families and communities, leading to informed decisions in human health.
HABRI Central (the online platform) is a joint effort between Purdue University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Purdue University Libraries.