WASHINGTON, D.C., October 17, 2012 - A dramatic new survey released today by American Humane Association reveals the most compelling evidence to date of the vital and extraordinary bond between people and their pets, particularly between children and the animals they grew up with. Indeed, four in 10 individuals say that the loss of a childhood pet from injury, disease or old age continues to affect them as adults. And, an even greater number of adults (44.4%) note that they are still affected by a pet who was given away, ran away or had an uncertain disposition.
These were the major findings of “People, Pets and the World We Share,” a survey conducted by American Humane Association’s Animal Welfare Research Institute to examine the lasting impact a pet has on a child and the remarkable bond and loyalty they share. Based on an email survey sent to its nationwide database of supporters and Facebook followers, respondents were asked to remember one animal from their childhood in answering the questions.
Dogs were by far the most popular childhood pet remembered, accounting for over 70 percent of responses. Cats were second at 23.8%, with the remaining including a myriad of animals including horses, rabbits and hamsters. 93.2% respondents were women, 44.8% were 30-49 years old, 43.2% over 50 with 12% under the age of 30.
“Experiences with a childhood pet remain throughout a person’s lifetime and showcase the transformative power of the human-animal bond and the amazing role that animals play in the lives of children,” says Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. “Animals in our lives help to create the social network that is a cornerstone of creating humane communities. As the nation’s first humane organization, our unique dual mission is to improve the welfare, wellness and well-being of both children and animals. We are pleased to share the results of this survey as an important step for future work to assess and understand the world of people, pets and the inextricable link we share.”
The survey backed the recent findings in a pet ownership study released earlier this year by American Humane Association and PetSmart Charities. In Phase One of the “Keeping Pets (Dogs and Cats) in Homes Retention Study,” interviews with more than 1,000 previous pet owners revealed that lasting grief over the loss of a previous pet was a significant obstacle towards owning a new pet. Highlighting the emotional intricacies of the human-animal bond, one in five (20%) of previous dog owners and one in six (17%) of previous cat owners cited the loss of a beloved dog or cat as a reason they chose not to have another. Helping people to overcome their reluctance to own another pet in adulthood is vital to decreasing the three to four million adoptable animals who are being euthanized in our nation’s shelters.
For many children, the passing of an animal might be their first experience dealing with the death of a member of their family. Respondents were encouraged to provide comments about the animal they selected for the survey, and their emotional stories illustrate the lasting impact and irreplaceable bond they shared with their beloved pets.
Also illuminating is how parents of the respondents were remembered depending on the parents’ involvement with the loss of a pet. Some comments speak to a parent’s role in nurturing the human-animal bond, and a child’s ongoing feelings of fondness toward their parents as the result, while others express bitterness toward a parent that gave away a pet without their child’s knowledge.
A sampling of these comments follows:
To see the full study, please go to: http://www.americanhumane.org/people-pets-and-the-world-we.pdf.
American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.