New human-animal bond survey contains “important and perhaps surprising” news for vets

A groundbreaking global survey of 16,000 pet owners and 1,200 small-animal veterinarians reveals that the human-animal bond (HAB) is a win-win for both: It improves pet health and human health.

Results of the survey, which was a joint effort by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Zoetis were announced  at VMX in Orlando last week.

Among their conclusions:

  • The human-animal bond is strong
  • Pets positively impact their owners’ health
  • Stronger bonds are connected to improved veterinary care around the world

The researchers developed a new scale called the Human-Animal Bond Score (HABSCORE) that examines the human-animal bond across four distinct dimensions:

  1. Attachment – the emotional connection the owner feels to the pet
  2. Humanization – the empathic attributes the owner projects onto the pet
  3. Commitment – the changes/sacrifices the owner is willing to make to accommodate the pet
  4. Integration – the extent to which the pet is integrated in the owner’s everyday life

To help quantify the relative strength of the bond between human and animal health, the researchers divided respondents into three HABSCORE tiers—Low (Less than 55), Mid (55-62), and High (63 or more).

The total average HABSCORE is high at 57.9/70.0, indicating the human-animal bond is strong globally. The survey found no strong cultural differences in terms of how the bond is experienced and expressed.

Steve Feldman, president of HABRI, said the report contains a couple of “important, and perhaps surprising” nuggets of information for veterinary health professionals.

Feldman told NEWStat that the report presents “clear evidence” that the strength of the human-animal bond corresponds to better and more frequent veterinary care for pets. “This is true for preventive care and for the treatment of a range of conditions.”

Moving up just one tier in terms of the strength of the bond would result in an estimated average veterinary care spending increase  of approximately 16% In the US alone, which could grow the pet care market by $16.6 billion.

“While many [veterinary professionals] take it for granted that almost all pet owners—95% according the survey—feel that pets are family, 86% were prepared to act on that feeling, saying that they would pay whatever it takes if their pet needed extensive veterinary care,” Feldman said.

“Veterinary health professionals are key to unlocking the potential of stronger human-animal bonds,” he added.

While 81% of veterinarians are aware of the scientific evidence showing mutual health benefits from the human-animal bond, only 43% talk to their clients about this science on a regular basis—despite the clear evidence that a stronger bond leads to increased spending on veterinary care.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that 68% of the veterinarians surveyed had never received formal HAB training, and only 19% said it was part of their training at veterinary school.

Feldman says there’s a solution: “By offering more training and CE, like Human-Animal Bond Certification, we can build knowledge, dialogue, and strong bonds that improve human and animal health.”

Not to mention financial health for practices.

Membership in the Human Animal Bond Association is free with AAHA membership, and includes professional discounts for HAB services, CE, and products.

Photo credit: © RyanJLane/E+ via Getty Images Plus

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