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People in crisis do better with their pets, researchers say

People in crisis do better with their pets
Sonya McDowall with her pet dog Dashii. Credit: La Trobe University

Evidence shows human and pet support services should be integrated to avoid people having to relinquish their pets in a time of crisis. Keeping them often results in better health outcomes for both the owner and animal.

Sonya McDowall, a Ph.D. student presenting her research at the Big Hairy People & Pets Summit and Workshops held 10–14 October on the Gold Coast, wants to understand the documented positive outcomes when human support services work with animal support services.

"It's cost-effective for the community, and people are healthier if they can keep their animals during a time of crisis," Sonya McDowall said.

"Social, physical and affecting can easily flow onto pets and ."

A 2020 survey by Domestic Violence NSW found that 42% of respondents said victim-survivors delayed leaving a perpetrator for over 12 months due to barriers to accessing support related to their animals.

A recent U.S. survey showed 91% of people had experienced some degree of financial stress in the past year related to the cost of pet care.

Statistics from relevant research:

  • In Australia, social return on investment for programs that people experiencing a crisis to help keep their companion animal is $8.21 for each $1 invested, (Source: Emergency Animal Boarding: A Social Return on Investment)
  • Even before the cost of living and rental market crisis, a study in the United States found between 35.1% and 42.1% of participants relinquished their pet due to moving as the landlord would not allow pets. (Source: Moving as a reason for pet relinquishment: a closer look)
  • Studies have shown that between 26% and 71% of female companion animal guardians experiencing reported that the offender had seriously harmed or killed the companion animal.
  • 48% of domestic survivors are reportedly hesitant to escape their domestic violence environment due to the fact of being concerned about what will happen to the family pet. (Source: An exploratory study of domestic violence: Perpetrators' reports of violence against animals)
  • 18%–48% of domestic violence survivors have delayed entering a domestic violence shelter due to the presence of welfare concerns for their pet that they have had to leave behind. (Source)
  • Foodbank Australia hunger report 2022 highlighted that over half a million people in Australia are struggling with the cost of food; of this population 67% have pets. This has resulted in a challenge for pet owners of which studies have reported between 30% and 50% of participants identifying that having access to low-cost or free pet food would have prevented them from relinquishing their pet.
Citation: People in crisis do better with their pets, researchers say (2023, October 11) retrieved 4 March 2024 from
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