‘One health’ and the economics of the human animal bond.

Companion Animal Economics Cropped
One of a series of blogs  written by CABI editors for One Health Day November 3rd 2016

The term ‘One health’ was created to emphasise the fact that health of humans and animals were inter-linked and that the control of zoonotic diseases is best achieved by breaking down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, developing an holistic approach. The disaster of BSE and the emergence of a new human disease, variant-CJD, and the risk of another pandemic of avian influenza, strengthened the case for One-health, and it has been adopted by the WHO, OIE, and many other relevant organizations.

Within the area of One-health, interest has been growing on the modern phenomenon of companion animals. In many parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, pets – mainly dogs and cats, are kept as companions, and are treated as one of the family. They are pampered and treated to expensive veterinary treatments when they become ill, whereas in earlier times, a sick pet would be destroyed and replaced. This attitude to animals is particularly well established in the UK, a nation of animal lovers, with an estimated 12 million (46%) households incorporating about 65 million companion animals, and  where it is not unusual to see a sign on the door of a pub saying “No children, dogs welcomed”.

The beneficial health effects that animals can have on people has been recognised with such schemes as riding for the disabled and therapy dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. The term ‘human animal bond’ was coined to describe this mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both.  

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‘One Welfare’ complements ‘One Health’

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Image: Leroy Skalstad, Pixabay.com

One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day on November 3rd 2016

While ‘One Health’ is a well-established concept, a new term ‘One Welfare’ is also emerging, extending the One Health theme beyond physical health and recognising that animal welfare and human wellbeing are intrinsically connected. In an article in the Veterinary Record, Rebeca García Pinillos and other One Welfare advocates introduce this concept for debate, with an aim to “improve animal welfare and human wellbeing worldwide.”

A One Welfare approach will help to empower the animal welfare field to address the connections between science and policy more effectively in various areas of human society, including environmental science and sustainability, the authors say. “It could also help promote key global objectives such as supporting food security, reducing human suffering (e.g., abuse of vulnerable people) and improving productivity within the farming sector through a better understanding of the value of high welfare standards.”

While One Health initiatives have tended to focus on threats to human and animal health, particularly zoonoses, there is a growing body of research into the mental and physical health benefits of the human-animal bond. In addition, because poor animal welfare can often act as an indicator of poor human welfare (and vice versa), there is a need to understand the psychosocial impacts of human-animal interactions.

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It’s a dog’s life: capturing animal behaviour through the lens

Image from I, Jack Russell

Image from I, Jack Russell

Prior to his talk with world renowned author and academic Dr. John Bradshaw on Wednesday 16 January at Blackwell's Bookstore, Oxford , guest blogger and professional photographer Andy Hughes writes about the human-animal bond from a photographers perspective using images from his recent publication I, Jack Russell

Photographers, artists, writers and other ‘creatives’ are diverse in motivation, interests, experiences and insights. Much of my photographic practice deals with issues concerning the marine and coastal environment, however recently, I realized or perhaps discovered by accident that I had many more images of my two dogs than I did of my family and friends and this lead to a new field of research. I began this project about Jack Russell dogs by looking to find as many family snapshots, which included our dogs. I found a few and these are included in my recent book I Jack Russell which attempts to encourage readers to think about their own snapshots of dogs and about the dog human bond.

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Dog share?

Bobby

“Can we have a pet for Christmas?” is something I hear a lot each December. The answer, much to my children’s disappointment, is always no.

In addition to the fact that we are often told that Christmas is not the best time to introduce a new animal into a household [e.g. see PetRescue.Com article: No Christmas Puppies, Please!], I can’t think of any pet that is both practical and fulfils the necessary fluffy/cute criteria that my kids are requesting. (Apparently the stick insects that we have are not ‘proper’ pets!). 

After listening to experts talk at CABI’s Human-Animal Bond Symposium last month, I can appreciate the benefits that introducing something cuddly into the family could bring. Professor Alan Beck, of Purdue University, described some of the ways that pets can benefit human health and welfare. For example, dog ownership generally results in increased exercise and greater social contact through talking with other dog owners; people with dogs or cats have been found to have lower blood pressure, heart rates and reduced cholesterol than those without; and even staring at a fish tank can provide enough of a distraction from our worries to induce a relaxation response. Animals can also help teach children about responsibility and compassion.

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