Special Issue "Human-Animal Interactions: New Perspectives on the Impact on Human Health and Animal Welfare"

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Elena Ratschen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK
Interests: human animal interaction, mental health; animal-assisted interventions; addictions; applied health research
Dr. Emily Shoesmith
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK
Interests: human-animal interaction; mental health; dementia; addictions research
Prof. Dr. Daniel Mills
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln LN6 7DL, UK
Interests: animal behavior; welfare and cognition; human-animal interaction and health
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Research evidence of the potential benefits of human–animal Interactions (HAIs) on human health has been steadily emerging. Broadly speaking, in a health and social care context, relevant HAIs include therapeutically targeted animal-assisted therapy (AAT), non-directive spontaneous animal-assisted activities (AAA), animal-assisted education (AAE), but also the quality of our emotional relationships with companion animals (pets) and assistance animals. Study populations of interest cover the human lifespan, with outcomes under investigation referring to a wide variety of physiological, psychosocial, emotional and behavioural dimensions. Despite the rapidly growing popularity of the view that HAIs are “beneficial” for human health, the evidence base remains quite limited, often with mixed findings. The need for more rigorous research has been identified. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this appears to be especially important as the impact of pet ownership has been a subject of much interest and intense lobbying.

The IJEPHR invites submissions to this Special Issue focused on research investigating the mental and physical health and social outcomes of human–animal interactions (including living with companion or assistance animals; AAT; AAA; AAE, and interactions with non-domestic animals/wildlife). Topics can include—but are not limited to—issues at the forefront of public health concern (e.g., social isolation and loneliness, mental health, addiction, obesity and heart health), with a particular (but not exclusive) interest on work considering the role of HAI in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies that include perspectives related to animal welfare and behaviour as part of their investigative remit are particularly welcome. Contributions may be quantitative, qualitative or opinion pieces.

We very much look forward to receiving your submissions.

Dr. Elena Ratschen

Dr. Emily Shoesmith
Prof. Dr. Daniel Mills
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • human–animal interactions
  • animal-assisted interventions
  • animal-assisted therapy
  • animal-assisted education
  • mental health
  • wellbeing

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Research

Article
The Perceived Impact of The First UK COVID-19 Lockdown on Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour: A Mixed-Method Study of Associations with Owner Mental Health
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(11), 6171; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18116171 - 07 Jun 2021
Viewed by 2440
Abstract
Background: Companion animals may be a positive presence for their owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the welfare of a companion animal is strongly influenced by the behaviour of their owners, as well as their physical and social environment. We aimed to investigate [...] Read more.
Background: Companion animals may be a positive presence for their owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the welfare of a companion animal is strongly influenced by the behaviour of their owners, as well as their physical and social environment. We aimed to investigate the reported changes in companion animal welfare and behaviour and to examine the association between these changes and companion animal owners’ mental health. Methods: A cross-sectional online survey of UK residents over 18 years of age was conducted between April and June 2020 (n = 5926). The questionnaire included validated, bespoke items measuring outcomes related to mental health, human-animal bonds and reported changes in animal welfare and behaviour. The final item of the survey invited open-ended free-text responses, allowing participants to describe experiences associated with human-animal relationships during the first UK lockdown phase. Results: Animal owners made up 89.8% of the sample (n = 5323), of whom 67.3% reported changes in their animal’s welfare and behaviour during the first lockdown phase (n = 3583). These reported changes were reduced to a positive (0–7) and negative (0–5) welfare scale, following principal component analysis (PCA) of 17 items. Participants reported more positive changes for cats, whereas more negative changes were reported for dogs. Thematic analysis identified three main themes relating to the positive and negative impact on companion animals of the COVID-19 pandemic. Generalised linear models indicated that companion animal owners with poorer mental health scores pre-lockdown reported fewer negative changes in animal welfare and behaviour. However, companion animal owners with poorer mental health scores since lockdown reported more changes, both positive and negative, in animal welfare and behaviour. Conclusion: Our findings extend previous insights into perceived welfare and behaviour changes on a very limited range of species to a wider range of companion animals. Owner mental health status has a clear, albeit small, effect on companion animal welfare and behaviour. Full article
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