Chapter 9 Companion animals in the home.
You enter a certain amount of madness when you marry a person with pets.
humane education movement
Bands of Mercy
Harmony Neighborhood Charter School
More often than not, people welcome companion animals in their homes to be members of their families (Friedman et al., 1984; Hirschman, 1994). Americans acquire dogs, cats, and other companion animals from a wide range of sources. It may be surprising, but pet stores and animal shelters are not the most common source of dogs and cats in American homes (Table 9-1). The most common source of dogs (32%) and cats (43%) as pets are friends and relatives, usually for little or no cost. Almost a third of dogs are purchased from breeders (31%), while very few cats come directly from breeders (3%). Animal shelters account for 16% of dogs and 15% of cats, and many cats (34%) end up in homes after being taken in as strays (APPMA, 2005). These data indicate that a large number of dogs and cats are acquired with limited opportunity to provide education on responsible pet care. Birds, fish, small animals, and reptiles are more frequently purchased at a variety of retail outlets, including pet stores, pet superstores, and specialty stores. Where friends and relatives acquired the pets they passed on to the individuals surveyed is not known from these data. However, New et al. (2004) note that both dog- and cat-owning households produce large numbers of unplanned litters, yielding puppies and kittens that can be passed on at little or no cost to new owners. The question of acquisition cost is significant because dogs and cats acquired for little or no cost are at increased risk for relinquishment to an animal shelter (Patronek et al., 1996a, 1996b; Salman et al., 1998). If you look at both the frequency with which new cats are acquired by taking in a stray and the frequency with which cats leave households by wandering away, it is hard to escape the conclusion that some part of the cat population is cycling between various homes.
Further analysis of relinquishment data has focused on behavioral issues of pets (Salman et al., 2000), human health and personal issues (Scarlett et al., 1999), and moving (New et al., 1999). Taken as a group, these analyses reveal that relinquishment of pets to an animal shelter results from a complex mix of reasons. Behavior problems are the most common reason for the relinquishment of dogs and the second most common reason for cats. Among the common behavioral reasons for cat and dog relinquishment were biting and other forms of aggression, household destruction, house soiling, and problems with other pets. These data are consistent with the data collected from a free behavior help service run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Another key element noted in the relinquishment studies was the presence of other animals in the home. Multiple-pet homes were more likely to relinquish a pet to an animal shelter.
Pet behavior may have an effect on the level of attachment that pet owners have for their companion animals (Serpell, 1996). Weakly attached owners are more likely to be dissatisfied with their pet's behavior. Understanding the relationship between pets and people and its influence on retention in the home is further complicated by studies that suggest that owner personality and behavior are associated with dog behavior problems (O'Farrell, 1997; Podberscek & Serpell, 1997). Among other things, owners of aggressive dogs were found to be more tense, emotionally less stable, shy, and undisciplined (my personal experience working with owners to correct behavior problems is consistent with these reports). Additional research will be required to elucidate these relationships more fully. Especially important will be determining the extent to which owner personality and behavior influence that of a pet, and how or whether human variables influence pet choice.
Analysis of health and personal issues indicates that households in flux are at risk for relinquishing a pet. Allergies, illnesses, new jobs, and births and deaths of people in the household were all identified as reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats. Overall, if these data are combined with an evaluation of moving as a reason for relinquishment, one can develop a picture of households that are unstable for a variety of reasons and conclude that relinquished pets are the victims of instability. These households were more likely to add pets to their homes, and often kept one or more pets, even when they were relinquishing one or more to an animal shelter. Young adults are over-represented among those relinquishing pets to animal shelters. This is not surprising since this is the time in life when people are most likely to move (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1995), as well as change jobs, get married, and have children.
When relinquishment data are combined with the acquisition data, it is clear that many companion animals change hands through friends and relatives or as strays in an informal network outside of the framework of retail sales, direct purchase from breeders, or adoption from an animal shelter. This has implications for both animal welfare and pet product commerce. Limited opportunities will be available for education on responsible pet care or product sales at the point of acquisition.
HOW PETS ARE CHOSEN
Leslie Irvine is a sociologist who conducted research at an animal shelter. She was struck by how people connect with animals and developed three general descriptions of the process (Irvine, 2004). The first group that she describes was the planners. These are people who know what they are looking for in terms of breed, size, and color. They may be trying to replace a companion animal from the past, or continuing a family history with a particular type of pet. The second group was the impartial. These people have generally had animals in the past but have few explicit preferences. They are open to whatever might be available, just looking for something that will be a good pet and member of the family. The third group was the smitten. People in this group describe an irresistible pull to a particular animal. The dog or cat may be nothing like what they had been looking for when they came into the shelter. These animals may have some distinctive markings or distinguishing characteristic. While the research was conducted at an animal shelter, her observations would probably apply to other venues for acquisition. It would not be difficult to see how these ways of choosing a pet could be played out under other circumstances. It would certainly seem that people who go directly to breeders would be planners; they know what they want and what they are looking for. Strays may come into someone's life when they are ready to accept a new companion, with no particular type in mind; they are impartial. The smitten could, of course, find a pet in any of the various sources. It is indeed a special moment when something just feels right and you know that this dog or cat is the one for you. It will be interesting to someday follow up on people who acquire pets in these different ways, and know whether there are differences in how likely the pet is to stay in the home for the rest of its life.
Hal Herzog and colleagues have examined trends in the popularity of dog breeds. Herzog et al. (2004) examined the AKC registration numbers between 1946 and 2001. While these registrations do not represent all dogs, and not even all purebred dogs since not everyone registers a purebred dog that they purchase, they do provide a reasonable picture of dog breed popularity. They found that breed popularity has followed a random copying model similar to that used to study other forms of cultural transmission (Cavalli-Sforza & Feldman, 1981), based on the random drift model of population genetics. The popularity of dog breeds is largely the result of random chance. People are likely to choose dogs that copy the choices of friends and others. This is similar to how changing tastes and fads in clothing and music are transmitted through a community or population. Someone wears their baseball cap with the brim turned backwards, someone else sees it, thinks it looks cool/hot/phat (the choice of descriptors here has also followed a similar drift model over the past 25 years!), and copies the style. As a particular style or choice becomes more common, it is more likely to be copied and maintained. In the same way, when someone shows up at the dog run with a breed that has not been seen, other people seeing that dog will ask about it, and may copy the choice when they acquire a new dog. The authors also note that there have been cases where cultural events have had a profound influence on the popularity of a dog breed. One example is the spike in registrations of Dalmatian registrations in the years following release of the Disney film 101 Dalmatians in 1985. In 1985 there were 6,880 new Dalmatians registered. By 1993 there was a greater than sixfold increase in registrations, peaking at 42,816. By 1999, however, the registrations for Dalmatians had declined to their historic levels, with 4,652 new registrations.
Herzog and Elias (2004) further evaluated the effect of a high-profile and popular dog event on breed popularity, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Westminster is the nation's oldest dog show, and enjoys a national television audience of over five million viewers, as well as substantial coverage of the winner in the popular press, news, and television. They examined registration numbers for the four years before and five years (counting the year of winning) after a breed won Best in Show. They found that winning the Best in Show has no impact on breed popularity. The clear conclusion is that the winners of Best in Show do not reflect American's preferences for pet dogs.
More recently, a variety of designer dogs have become popular (Kelly, 2006). These are intentional hybrids of two different purebred dogs. It is thought that these types of mixes will avoid the inherited diseases and problems sometimes seen in different dog breeds. These dogs also provide a unique and different look. Common hybrids are puggles, which are a mix of pug and beagle, labradoodles, a mix of Labrador retriever and poodles, and cockapoos, a mix of cocker spaniel and poodle. The fact that a number of celebrities have acquired one or another type of designer dog has no doubt helped to encourage their popularity.
CHILDREN AND ANIMALS
Children and animals seem to be a natural combination. There is a long history of literature and folklore that links children with animals, and how this can help to promote kindness in children (Zawistowski, 1998). This is reflected in the earliest roots of children's literature. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, when literature specifically created for children first began to appear, animals were frequently included as part of the story. These early stories would also include a moral theme. One such example, published in 1798, "The Life, Adventures, and Vicissitudes of a Tabby Cat" included a description of a cat having its ears cut off with a pair of scissors by a terrible young man. Other stories included stealing eggs from birds' nests, and other forms of cruelty to animals (Figure 9-1). Most important, however, was that as part of the story something terrible would usually happen to the children or people who were cruel to animals, and the children who were kind were usually rewarded. The most famous such story was Black Beauty written by Anna Sewell in 1877 (Figure 9-2). Eventually this approach would coalesce into the humane education movement. George Angell, founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was the leader in this effort (Angell, 1884). Angell's father had been a minister but died when George was a young boy. His mother supported her son and herself as a schoolteacher. When George was a young man, he would also teach school while working his way through college and law school. This had a profound impact on his approach to preventing cruelty. He strongly believed that the most productive approach would be to teach kindness to children. His approach found fertile ground in the educational establishment of the time (Good, 1956; Spring, 1985). McGuffey's Newly Revised Eclectic Reader was published in 1843 and included many stories about animals and nature. True to the prevailing theme of children's literature, these stories also reflected moral themes. In this same era, the common school philosophy of Horace Mann dominated thinking in the education field. This approach emphasized the importance that public education could have on well-informed citizens who shared a common knowledge of morals and culture. The public school would be the place where children of different backgrounds would come together to learn and appreciate the American experience. There was a strong belief that this type of education would be able to help solve many of the social problems that faced the nation.
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In 1882, Angell began to organize Bands of Mercy in the schools in Boston. These after-school clubs encouraged children to learn about animals and how to care for them. Meetings would include recitation of a prayer, testimony about animals the children had helped in the past week, and singing the Bands of Mercy hymn. The idea spread rapidly across the country. By 1883, there were 600 Bands of Mercy found in schools across the country, with a membership of 70,000. In 1889, Angell formed the American Humane Education Society to promote work in this area. In 1923, there were over 140,000 Bands of Mercy with over four million children enrolled. Over time, the Bands of Mercy dwindled and disappeared. Changes in the education system and new and different demands resulted in schools discarding these quaint relics of another era. These early humane education efforts did leave a legacy, enshrined in state laws across the country that require the teaching of humane education (Antoncic, 2003). Thirteen states currently have humane education laws (California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin). In Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon these laws reflect a legislative intent regarding the importance of humane education, but they do not make the teaching of humane education mandatory. In the other nine states, teaching humane education is mandatory, though no additional funding is provided for this purpose. As an example, the New York State law applies to all elementary schools under the control of the state or funded by public money. The law is generally understood to require weekly instruction in humane education. New York is the only state to have a penalty; schools that fail to comply with the requirements may lose funding. This penalty provision has never been tested. In fact, it is difficult to determine whether these humane education laws are taken seriously by school administrators or teachers. While these laws are seldom enforced, they do highlight the importance that humane education had at one time. They have also been resurrected in a number of places as part of new developments in education that focus on moral and character education. In an effort to combat the increasing levels of violence seen in schools and communities, educators, parents, and others are introducing new programs to encourage kindness and caring. What they are finding is that George Angell was ahead of them, and that humane education and teaching kindness through proper care of animals can be an important part of the education mainstream once again.
Measuring the impact of humane education has proven difficult. While short term studies have been able to demonstrate an impact on attitudes, it is more difficult to measure the impact on behavior. Ascione (1992) examined the effect of a humane education program on 32 first-, second-, fourth-, and fifth-grade classrooms. The humane education intervention consisted of a curriculum developed by the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education (NAHEE--a branch of the Humane Society of the United States), and the Kind News classroom newspaper distributed by the organization. Students were tested before and after the education program for their humane attitudes. Fourth- and fifth-grade students showed significant improvements in their attitudes toward animals, with a generalized effect on human-related attitudes as well. The younger children did not show significant improvement. Ascione and Weber (1996) followed up one year later with the students who had been in fourth grade and were now in fifth grade. Their results showed that students who had received the humane education program retained higher levels of positive attitudes toward animals than students who had not received humane education training.
A long-term study is now underway at a charter school in Harmony, FL. The Harmony Neighborhood Charter School was conceived to focus on humane education linking all elements of the curriculum. The principal and teachers have worked with outside consultants from the Jane Goodall Institute, Albert Schweitzer Institute, and ASPCA to incorporate humane education themes into math, science, language arts, and other subject areas. Each year students are tested on their knowledge and attitudes toward animals and the environment. While this is a small-scale effort in a special setting, it may prove to provide some of the most helpful long-term data on the impact of humane education on children.
Harmony, FL Located on 11,000 acres between Orlando and Melbourne beaches in Florida, a remarkable community is taking shape (www.harmonyfl.com). Harmony, FL, will eventually be home to about 18,000 residents in a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and apartment units. Harmony is a dream becoming real under the leadership of Jim and Martha Lentz. The unique vision of Harmony is its effort to be animal friendly. Over 70% of the land will be left undeveloped as a refuge for native wildlife. Even those areas that are developed will be done in a way that is friendly to the animals and to the environment. No homes will be built on the shores of the two 500-acre natural lakes in the community. Shorelines and wetlands around the lakes will be preserved and protected. While boating on the lakes will be permitted, only electric motors will be allowed. Companion animals are part of the plan, including a beautiful dog park for safe off-leash play (Figure 9-3). Integral to the planning of Harmony and its programs and amenities to benefit the human--animal bond is the Harmony Institute (www.harmonyinstitute.org). Composed of leading academic authorities on animals and their interactions with humans, the Harmony Institute Campus Advisory Board (HICAB) provides advice for the community and its development. Members of HICAB will also help to design and carry out research related to human--animal relations in the community. Among some of the planned Harmony Institute Programs are the following: * Pet Concierge[TM]--A program designed to maximize the benefits of the human--animal bond and intervene in emergency situations that might result in animal relinquishment. Efforts here might include providing advice on solving behavior problems or providing emergency foster care or other services that can help to keep pets in a home. * WildSide Walk[TM]--A blueprint for integrating natural habitat into communities. * Center for Community Health--A collaborative and multi-disciplinary center to further human-- animal and human--nature interactions as health enhancers. * Homeowner Documents--Guidelines relating to animals, urban wildlife, and the environment that help to prevent and/or resolve potential issues and concerns. * Petlife Home Environments--Special design features that make homes more suitable for animal companions and make caring for them easier. * Community Design--Land design, pet parks, environmentally sensitive plantings and gardens, and lake management. This design includes lighting systems to limit the amount of ambient light that "escapes" into the night as part of the Dark Sky effort to prevent light pollution (www.darksky.org). * Living in Harmony, A City for People and Animals--a two-year documentary conceived by HICAB board member Jennifer Wolch in collaboration with filmmaker Michael Tobias and Fitzgerald Productions. [FIGURE 9-3 OMITTED]
CHILDREN AND PETS
While the influence of humane education on children may be difficult to measure, popular culture has seemingly embraced the concept that animals are good for children (Figure 9-4). It is something of a truism that having a pet can help teach a child responsibility. Melson and Fogel (1996) examined this concept by asking parents of pre-school, second-, and fifth-grade students about their children and their care-giving behaviors. They found that caregiving increases with age, and that the impact of pets may be gender neutral. They conclude that pet care may be particularly important to encourage the development of nurturing behaviors in boys. Daly and Morton (2003), on the other hand, did not find that pet ownership was associated with higher levels of empathy in children. They surveyed students from the fourth to eighth grades and found that students with pets scored no higher than students without pets on empathy. The degree of attachment that a child showed toward their pet was also not associated with higher scores on empathy. One difference that they did note was that children with dogs showed higher empathy than children with cats. The Daly and Morton study differed from the Melson and Fogel study in that they directly surveyed the children. Melson and Fogel, on the other hand, surveyed the parents. It may be that parents who observe their children with animals assume a positive, nurturing relationship between the child and pet. Paul and Serpell (1993) surveyed college students and found that concern for animal welfare was positively correlated with companion animal involvement in childhood. The number of pets that the students had while young and how important those pets were to them were positively correlated with humane attitudes as adults and their attitudes toward having pets. These humane attitudes carried over into concern for the welfare of laboratory and farm animals and wildlife.
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It is abundantly clear that children who grow up with companion animals will have a greater interest in pets as adults, and will be more likely to have pets as adults (Serpell 1981). Individuals who have a pet earlier in childhood will have a more positive attitude toward having pets as adults than those who had their first pet later in childhood (Poresky et al., 1988). As in many other areas, parents also have a strong influence on their children's interest and attitudes toward pets. Children with parents who have a strong attachment to pets were more likely to report interest in pets and activities associated with pets (Kidd & Kidd, 1990a). Moving back to the discussion on humane education, it is interesting to note that children with pets were also more likely to read stories about pets, and when given a choice, they will do schoolwork assignments on animal-related themes (Kidd & Kidd, 1990b).
It is important to recognize that children of different ages will be at different stages of cognitive development and, as a result, will be capable of performing more complicated care routines only when they are older. Table 9-2 provides a general guide to the different stages that a child will pass through and types of companion animals most appropriate for them, and the range of tasks they can be asked to perform in the care of the pets. Different children will mature at different rates and some will be able to take on more extensive responsibilities at earlier ages. This is especially true in households where companion animals may have preceded the child's appearance in the home. Care must be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of both the child and the pet. In some cases, the animal itself might pose a risk to the child. Dogs may bite and cats may scratch a child who is unable to control his or her excitement and plays too rough or disturbs the pet while it is eating or sleeping. Zoonotic diseases are also a concern, especially for young children who are still working on their hygiene skills. In some cases the equipment associated with the pet can pose a risk. This is especially true for aquariums and terrariums. The electrical cables pose a tangle risk, and electrocution is a danger, especially with water around. Aquariums, terrariums, bird cages, and other enclosures may be tipped over by overly curious children. Children will also need instruction and training in how to approach, pick up, carry, and otherwise interact with companion animals. Small animals can be injured by children who hold them too tightly; they may also bite to defend themselves. While caring for a pet can be an excellent demonstration of responsibility by a child, it remains paramount that an adult take ultimate responsibility for the health and welfare of companion animals in a home.
ANIMALS AND HUMAN HEALTH
There is a substantial literature related to the health benefits of having companion animals. In one of the classic studies, at the University of Maryland, researchers examined the influence of a variety of factors on the survival of heart attack patients after discharge from a hospital coronary unit (Friedman et al., 1980). They investigated the role of income, neighborhoods, and social contacts, such as friends or relatives. Ninety-two patients were enrolled in the study and 14 died in the first year after being hospitalized. When they analyzed the data, they found that the initial social variables that they had set out to study were associated with higher survival rates. However, they were surprised to find that patients with pets at home were three times more likely to survive than patients without pets. The influence of having pets was equivalent to the other social support variables that were studied. The authors of that study point out that pets are not a panacea, but can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle that supports survival after a heart attack. The mechanism of this enhanced survival is still undetermined. However, other studies have shown that animals can have profound effects on cardiovascular function. Katcher et al. (1983) found that simply observing an aquarium with fish in it could reduce an individual's physiological response to stressful situations. Additional studies summarized by Friedman, Thomas, and Eddy (2000) show that having a dog in a room, talking to a dog, or petting a dog can have a beneficial impact on blood pressure during some types of stressful tasks. There are different responses to dogs versus cats, familiar dogs versus unfamiliar dogs, and also differences in response between men and women, with a greater influence on men. The impacts that companion animals have on health are likely complicated and will require additional research to elucidate the mechanisms.
A recent large-scale study in Finland failed to find a positive benefit of pet ownership on health (Koivusilta & Ojanlatva, 2006). Working with a cross section of over 21,000 working-aged Finns, stratified by age groups, they found that pet ownership was associated with poor perceived health. They conclude that pet ownership may have been associated with older people who were more set in their ways and less active. A direct comparison to work done in the United States is difficult because pet ownership patterns may be quite different between the United States and Finland. Surveys of Americans tend to show that pet ownership is higher in families with children, typically at the midlife stage. There are also differences between the overall health delivery systems of the United States and Finland. This study does highlight that the role of companion animals must be considered within the context of the wide range of lifestyle and social factors known to have an influence on health.
COMPANION ANIMAL DEATH AND GRIEF
The level of attachment that people have to their companion animals may best be measured by the grief that they experience when the animal dies. For many, this is the most difficult part of having a pet. It is not made any easier by friends and others who might question their emotional response to the loss of a pet dog or cat (Quackenbush & Graveline, 1985). The past two decades have seen a substantial amount of change in this area and grief counseling for pet loss is developing as a special type of counseling. Those working in the field are now able to work within the framework developed by Kubler-Ross (1969) to understand and deal with pet loss. In her classic book On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross described five stages in how people cope with the death of a loved one. While these stages may not follow a clear linear process, they are common to most cases of loss:
1. Denial--Unwilling to accept what has happened. It is almost as if our mind goes into a protective mode, so we do not need to absorb the loss all at once. A sudden death may make this stage more intense. Denial may erode slowly.
2. Anger--Why did this happen? Couldn't someone have done something more? Were all medical options explored?
3. Bargaining--This may happen with an unfavorable diagnosis or poor prognosis. "If she lives I'll never leave her alone again." Guilt may follow--What did I fail to do?
4. Depression--A general lack of interest or motivation. "What's the use if he is not here to walk or play with me."
5. Acceptance--There is new energy and you are able to enjoy life and memories of the one you lost.
Wallace Sife, founder of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, has helped to develop special training programs and professional support for pet loss counselors. He also provides some practical suggestions (Sife, 1998) for dealing with pet loss.
* First and foremost is to let your feelings out, not to hold back, and acknowledge that you have suffered a loss.
* You may want to make a memorial donation in your pet's memory, to a humane organization or a veterinary college.
* Keep a list of things that you enjoyed doing with your pet, and things that you really liked about your pet. This is something that you can continue to add to over time. It may be written or it could be an audio recording.
* Establish new routines. Walk different paths to work or other places.
* Visit other pet owners and their pets. Don't be a hermit.
* Talk to a pet bereavement counselor or attend a pet loss support group.
* Treat yourself to things you would have liked to do, but could not.
* It may help to put away any remaining pet toys and reminders of your pet if they upset you when you see them.
* Talk to your veterinarian and ask the questions that you may not have thought of asking, or were unable to ask when your pet was dying.
* Try to avoid euthanizing a pet on holidays or other special calendar days.
* Understand and respect your grief. If your grief is intense, take some time off from work if you can.
* Don't rush into getting another pet. Visit an animal shelter to see how you feel. Do not be impulsive. If you go back a second time and you still feel like getting another pet, it may be the right time.
* Hold some sort of private memorial service.
Dealing with the death of a pet can be difficult, and made even more awkward by how people respond and react to the situation. It is generally recommended to keep interaction with someone grieving simple and honest. The best response is often, "I am sorry for your loss; is there something that I can do to help?" The grieving person may just need someone to talk to, so be ready to listen. Don't say "I know just how you feel." Feelings of loss are private and unique. There is no way to really know how they feel.
Pet loss can be especially difficult for children (Greene & Landis, 2002). It may be their first experience with death. It is important to be honest. Stay away from euphemisms such as "put to sleep" or "the dog ran away." After all, what would have caused the pet to run away? Also, going to sleep can be traumatic for the child. Ask for questions; ask how they feel. Let them know that being sad or angry is normal. Parents can help a child create a scrapbook of their favorite things about their pet. They can also help create a small memorial by decorating a rock or gathering flowers, and making the child a part of a memorial service for the pet. No time limits should be put on how long the child grieves, but if the child continues for three to six months it might be advisable to consult a counselor.
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Strong feelings about the loss of a pet are not a recent development. In 1896, Dr. Samuel Johnson, a veterinarian practicing in New York City and at the ASPCA, would sometimes make arrangements for some of his clients to bury pets that had died on his farm in upstate New York. As word of his service became well known, more and more people approached him about burying their pets on his farm. Eventually, Dr. Johnson's apple orchard became Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the first such dedicated facility in the country (Figure 9-5). Nearly 70,000 pets have found a final resting place there. Hartsdale is also home to a memorial to dogs who have served in war.
Pet owners continue to be strongly influenced by the treatment that they receive from their veterinarian and clinic staff when it comes time to euthanize a companion animal (Adams, Bonnett, &Meek, 1999; Hart, Hart, & Mader, 1990; Martin et al., 2004). Clients are particularly interested in a private place for the procedure, and limited contact with other clients and pets before and afterward. For this reason, it is often recommended that planned euthanasia be performed at home, or at the very beginning or end of office hours at the clinic. Many people are now asking to be present during the euthanasia procedure. This puts additional stress on the staff because procedural errors that result in the pet struggling or appearing to be in pain or discomfort are very upsetting to the pet owner. For this reason it is critical that all staff involved be well trained and prepared to carry out the procedure in a dignified and professional manner. Whenever possible, all paperwork for the procedure should be completed before the euthanasia is performed. This can often be done when the pet is being prepared. This would include sedating the pet, shaving the fur wherever needed, and insertion of a catheter into a vein. Given this preparation, the pet owner and other family members, if desired, can enter the room to find the pet at rest. The pet owner should be fully briefed on what will happen and how the process will be completed. They should be informed that the pet may make a few whimpers, twitch a little, and urinate or defecate as he dies. The actual procedure will be simplified by now needing to inject the euthanasia fluid into the catheter. This will spare the veterinarian the difficult task of "hitting a vein" in a sick or older pet while the owner observes, helping to make the entire experience more controlled and compassionate.
E. O. Wilson (1984) has presented the hypothesis that humans have evolved deeply imbedded in nature, and that we retain our attachments to nature in our genome. He coined the term biophilia to describe this relationship. Evidence of the bond that we have with nature and animals is certainly embedded in human cultures. Art, legends, religion, and economics are bound up with the animals we hunted, herded, bought and sold, worshipped, and reviled. There was a time when most of humanity required some sort of daily contact with animals and nature to earn a living and survive. Technology has "freed" most of us from this requirement. Relatively few people in developed societies need to hunt or raise animals to make a living or earn a meal. It is certainly tempting to say that keeping pets is a way to satisfy an inborn need to have regular contact with animals and through them a more tangible contact with the natural world. While this is a tempting corollary to the biophilia hypothesis, we will need more data to confirm it as a scientific principle. We already have some data in hand. How else can we explain the remarkable influence that watching and touching animals has on basic physiological functions such as blood pressure and heart rate? It would be relatively simple to write about companion animals and extol only wonderful or benign effects. Companion animals are not a panacea. They are much more a Rorschach test of our humanity. What we see in them and how we treat them says much more about us than it does about them. Roger Caras was fond of telling me that "Animals bring out the best in people, and the worst." Going forward, it will be important to use the knowledge we gain about companion animals to ensure that we can be the best as often as possible.
1. What is the most common source of cats and dogs in American homes? What effect does this have on the opportunity to provide education to the new pet owner?
2. What age group is over represented among pet owners who relinquish their pets to an animal shelter?
3. What are designer dogs?
4. What were the Bands of Mercy?
5. In which states is teaching humane education mandatory? Is federal funding provided for this purpose?
6. Humane education is being incorporated into programs that focus on character education. What facet of American society has prompted this development?
7. What level of interaction with the family dog is recommended for a toddler? For a 6-year-old? For a 15-year-old?
8. In the study by Friedman et al. (1980), how much more likely to survive were patients with pets at home versus patients without pets?
9. When a companion animal is being euthanized, describe techniques that veterinary staff can apply in order to minimize stress on the animal's owner.
Adams, C. L., Bonnett, B. N., & Meek, A. H. (1999). Owner response to companion animal death: Development of a theory and practical implications. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 40, 33-39.
American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. (APPMA). (2005). 2005-2006 APPMA national pet owner's survey. Greenwich, CT: APPMA.
American Veterinary Medical Association. (2002). U. S. pet ownership and demographic sourcebook. Schaumberg, IL: American Veterinary Medical Association.
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TABLE 9-1 Common sources of companion animals (APPMA 2005, p. XXIII) TOTAL DOG CAT FISH SOURCE % % % Adopted from a pet superstore 1 3 -- Animal shelter/humane society 16 15 -- Breeder/hatchery/animal farm 31 3 1 Discount store -- -- 15 From a friend/relative 32 43 10 Gift 6 3 6 Internet/online <.5 -- 1 Newspaper/private party 13 8 -- Pet store 6 4 27 Pet superstore -- -- 20 Previous owner/from own 5 15 7 pet/bred at home Rescue group 5 3 -- Specialty store (fish or bird) -- -- 33 Stray/caught or found 9 34 2 outside/flew into yard Veterinarian >.5 2 -- SMALL BIRD ANIMAL REPTILE SOURCE % % % Adopted from a pet superstore -- -- -- Animal shelter/humane society 2 -- 7 Breeder/hatchery/animal farm 16 7 5 Discount store -- 7 -- From a friend/relative 34 28 17 Gift 8 -- -- Internet/online -- 1 1 Newspaper/private party 5 4 3 Pet store 19 34 38 Pet superstore 8 16 9 Previous owner/from own 5 27 9 pet/bred at home Rescue group -- -- -- Specialty store (fish or bird) 22 -- -- Stray/caught or found 5 4 17 outside/flew into yard Veterinarian 1 -- -- TABLE 9-2 A guide for the interaction of children and pets (Stephen Zawistowski) CHILD'S PRIMARY TASKS FOR AGE ISSUES RECOMMEND THE CHILD Infant Introduction to N/A N/A current pets Toddler Curiosity; pulling, N/A N/A touching, etc. 3-5 years Learning about Guinea pigs Filling water contact, empathy bottle and food dish 5-10 years Attention span Shelf pets, Clean cages is variable goldfish with adult help; supervised play with dogs/cats 10-13 years Greater interest Dogs, cats, Feed pet; walk in pets and rabbits dog; clean capacity for rabbit cage; responsibility clean cat litter 14-17 years Competition for Birds, Most tasks; use time and aquariums allowance to buy attention (i.e., treats, etc. sports, clubs, etc.) CHILD'S AGE OTHER OBSERVATIONS Infant Resident dogs and cats need gradual, supervised introduction to infants. Toddler Care must be taken with dog food dishes, toys; litter boxes for cats; aquarium wires. 3-5 years Guinea pigs like to be held, seldom bite, and will whistle when excited or happy. 5-10 years Adults should always check to ensure that pets have food/water and cages are secured. 10-13 years Children this age can be reliable, but adults should always check on food/water, etc. Participation in dog training classes is an excellent learning opportunity for the children. 14-17 years Developing interest as a fancier, more likely to do research or read about the species. Parents should note that dogs and cats acquired at this age will probably stay in the home when the child leaves for college, etc.
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|Publication:||Companion Animals in Society|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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