The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Zoetis recently announced the results of a survey of 16,000 dog and cat owners and 1,200 veterinarians across eight countries and four continents. The research shows that the human-animal bond is strong, that pets positively impact their owners’ health and that stronger bonds are connected to improved veterinary care around the world.
“When 95 percent of pet owners globally consider their pet a part of their family and 98 percent reported that they have personally experienced health benefits from having a pet in their lives, we have documented more comprehensively than ever before that the human-animal bond is universal across countries and cultures,” said Dr. Mike McFarland, Global Chief Medical Officer of Zoetis and Chair of the HABRI Board of Trustees.
Survey participants included dog and cat owners in eight countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Japan and China. Pet owner participants in the survey were the primary caregivers of their pets, and the samples were nationally representative by gender, age and region. In addition, 1,200 veterinarians across these same countries participated in this research.
Key findings show that the human-animal bond is universally valued and recognized among pet owners.
In addition, pet ownership is strongly linked to improved human health, with the vast majority of pet owners around the world having personally experienced health benefits from the human-animal bond. The findings show that:
- 87 percent have experienced the mental health and/or physical health benefits of the human-animal bond
- Virtually all pet owners around the world (98 percent) reported at least one specific benefit to their health from their pets including increased happiness, reduced loneliness and decreased stress
To measure the human-animal bond more precisely among pet owners, a new scale called the Human-Animal Bond Score (HABSCORE) was developed that expands on previous scientifically validated scales. The HABSCORE examines the human-animal bond across four distinct dimensions: attachment, humanization, commitment and integration. The total average HABSCORE is high at 57.9/70, indicating the human-animal bond is strong globally. The survey found no strong cultural differences in terms of how the bond is experienced and expressed. The researchers divided respondents into three HABSCORE tiers – Low (Less than 55), Mid (55-62), High (63 or more) – to look at how the relative strength of the bond can impact human and animal health.
“The strength of the human-animal bond in pet owners strongly correlated with higher rates of veterinary treatment for both preventive care and specific conditions,” said Steve Feldman, President of HABRI. “This is the strongest evidence to date showing the impact of the bond for veterinary medicine.”
Veterinarians believe in the importance of the human-animal bond for their practice and profession. Eighty-nine percent of veterinarians globally believe a strong human-animal bond increases pet welfare and 95 percent credit the human-animal bond as the reason they entered (or joined) the profession.
“The pandemic has elevated the role of the human-animal bond in people’s lives, and our data shows this is being felt on a global scale, with incredible consequences that can benefit human and pet health worldwide,” McFarland added. “The direct correlation between the strength of the human-animal bond and better veterinary care means that veterinarians, by communicating and championing the human-animal bond, are critical to the effort and to improving health for both people and companion animals.”
The findings also show a clear correlation between knowledge of the science behind the human-animal bond and the desire to provide better care for pets. “The findings are overwhelmingly clear that the human-animal bond has the potential to positively impact animal welfare and human health on a global scale,” added Feldman. “And HABRI clearly has a role to play in sharing the science of the human-animal bond with veterinarians and pet owners. We look forward to working with Zoetis and all of our partners to share this information with an international audience. Together, we can make a difference for people and pets worldwide.”
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