What’s this thing called the Human Animal Bond?

I graduated as a vet from Murdoch University in 1986. I had always wanted to work with animals. I love animals. I want to protect them. My reason for becoming a vet was to look after animals and prevent suffering, as one would expect!

Once I was qualified and working in practice, I soon discovered that I also loved the people I met as a vet, as much as their pets themselves. In fact I became totally fascinated with the connection people share with their pets and I recognised the importance of pets in the lives of people who are vulnerable, particularly elderly folk. The terminology “high level attachment” entered my vocabulary.

This was at a time when the human animal bond was not really a (widely) recognised thing. As recently defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the human animal bond (HAB) is “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.” But in the 80s, research and discussion about this unique relationship was almost non-existent and very few dogs slept in bed with their humans.

As a vet student in the 80s, I remember the excitement when Dr Erika Friedmann, PhD, published her ground breaking journal article from her research that demonstrated that people with pets who had been hospitalized for a heart attack were more likely to be alive one year later than those without pets. Her study “revealed that pets help moderate patients’ physiological responses”. This marked the beginning of what has become a huge area of growth in scientific research – the study of human animal interactions, or anthrozoology. (Anyone with an interest in this field, get in touch with ISAZ, the International Society for Anthrozoology).

As a practitioner I was observing first hand the way pets make their humans feel better, emotionally and physically. The health and wellbeing effects of pets are now being widely explored through research and practice and we will share more of this information through this blog. As a practitioner I have observed times where pets are both good and bad for us, and through Cherished Pets we are developing a unique service model designed to keep pets health and well, so that the bond can flourish, and the many known benefits be realised. Our goal is to align our service with current evidence-based practice, and to support emerging research in this exciting field.

Stay tuned! So much more to come.

Links of interest:
http://www.isaz.net
http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com
http://www.marcbekoff.com