Is the 'pet effect' real? What the science really says.
Presented by Tiffani Howell
There are many stories reported in the media about the beneficial effects of pet ownership, but existing scientific evidence is mixed. Some research has indeed shown that pet ownership is associated with improved mental and physical health outcomes, but other studies have shown no effect, or even a negative effect – that is, having a pet is associated with WORSE health outcomes. How can we make sense of this mixed evidence? What is the underlying factor that may be explaining why these results are inconsistent? This talk will describe the existing evidence base, including limitations and gaps, as well as a potential explanation for the mixed results: human social support.
The pet effect may be real, but the scientific evidence is not conclusive.
Limitations in existing research may help explain the mixed results.
About The Presenter
Tiffani is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University. She has extensive experience in research on animal welfare, dog-owner relationships, and assistance dogs, including surveys, focus groups, and behavioural studies.
She recently completed a four-year trial, funded by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to understand the effectiveness of assistance dogs as an adjunct to treatment for veterans with PTSD. She has also jointly led a project commissioned by the National Disability Insurance Agency, in which existing scientific literature was reviewed to determine the effectiveness of assistance dogs.
Other recently completed projects include understanding the benefits and disadvantages of owner-trained assistance dogs, general public awareness of assistance dog public access rights, whether social interactions within the community increase when people with an intellectual disability go on outings with a therapy dog, and the impact of courtroom dogs for survivors of sexual and family violence.
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