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Special Issue "Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2017)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Jo Williams

Centre for Applied Developmental Psychology, Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Doorway 6 Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG, UK
Website | E-Mail
Interests: applied developmental psychology; children’s interactions with animals; child and adolescent mental health

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Evidence is emerging, from a range of disciplines, on the positive impact of animals on human health and wellbeing. Interactions with animals and ownership of pets have been demonstrated to affect health among adults and the elderly. Research on younger populations is limited and there have been calls for further research to explore how pets influence child and adolescent health and development. Research on the “pet effect” on health is growing but many questions remain unanswered.

Research on animal assisted interventions, therapies and activities has a core role in this research area. While the practice of animal assisted interventions is growing, scientific research is needed to measure the impact on health and wellbeing and to explain the physiological and psychological mechanisms involved. Where research has been systematically reviewed there is evidence of positive effects, but the overall quality of research is often revealed to be weak.

This Special Issue will synthesize the evidence on the impact of animal assisted interventions for health and wellbeing. It will explore the impact of different types of animal assisted interventions, therapies and activities. It will consider the efficacy of animal assisted interventions for different groups, including: children and young people, the elderly, those with learning disabilities, and specific clinical groups. This Special Issue will provide a robust evidence-base to inform future practice and research.

Dr Jo Williams
Guest Editor

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 monthly 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 1600 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

  • animal assisted interventions
  • pet effect
  • animal assisted therapy
  • animal assisted activities
  • human-animal interactions
  • health
  • wellbeing
  • mental Health
  • disabilities

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Childhood Attachment to Pets: Associations between Pet Attachment, Attitudes to Animals, Compassion, and Humane Behaviour
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(5), 490; doi:10.3390/ijerph14050490
Received: 6 March 2017 / Revised: 21 April 2017 / Accepted: 24 April 2017 / Published: 6 May 2017
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Abstract
Attachment to pets has an important role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, mental health, well-being, and quality of life. This study examined associations between childhood attachment to pets and caring and friendship behaviour, compassion, and attitudes towards animals. This study also
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Attachment to pets has an important role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, mental health, well-being, and quality of life. This study examined associations between childhood attachment to pets and caring and friendship behaviour, compassion, and attitudes towards animals. This study also examined socio-demographic differences, particularly pet ownership and pet type. A self-report survey of over one thousand 7 to 12 year-olds in Scotland, UK, revealed that the majority of children are strongly attached to their pets, but attachment scores differ depending on pet type and child gender. Analysis revealed that attachment to pets is facilitated by compassion and caring and pet-directed friendship behaviours and that attachment to pets significantly predicts positive attitudes towards animals. The findings have implications for the promotion of prosocial and humane behaviour. Encouraging children to participate in pet care behaviour may promote attachment between children and their pet, which in turn may have a range of positive outcomes for both children (such as reduced aggression, better well-being, and quality of life) and pets (such as humane treatment). This study enhances our understanding of childhood pet attachment and has implications for humane education and promoting secure emotional attachments in childhood. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)
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Open AccessArticle The Effect of Dog-Assisted Intervention on Student Well-Being, Mood, and Anxiety
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(5), 483; doi:10.3390/ijerph14050483
Received: 23 December 2016 / Revised: 14 April 2017 / Accepted: 2 May 2017 / Published: 5 May 2017
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Abstract
This novel, exploratory study investigated the effect of a short, 20 min, dog-assisted intervention on student well-being, mood, and anxiety. One hundred and thirty-two university students were allocated to either an experimental condition or one of two control conditions. Each participant completed the
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This novel, exploratory study investigated the effect of a short, 20 min, dog-assisted intervention on student well-being, mood, and anxiety. One hundred and thirty-two university students were allocated to either an experimental condition or one of two control conditions. Each participant completed the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMBS), the State Trait Anxiety Scale (STAI), and the UWIST Mood Adjective Checklist (UMACL) both before, and after, the intervention. The participants in the experimental condition interacted with both the dogs and their handlers, whereas the control groups interacted with either the dog only, or the handler only. The analyses revealed a significant difference across conditions for each measure, with those conditions in which a dog was present leading to significant improvements in mood and well-being, as well as a significant reduction in anxiety. Interestingly, the presence of a handler alongside the dog appeared to have a negative, and specific, effect on participant mood, with greater positive shifts in mood being witnessed when participants interacted with the dog alone, than when interacting with both the dog and the handler. These findings show that even a short 20 min session with a therapy dog can be an effective alternative intervention to improve student well-being, anxiety, and mood. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)
Open AccessArticle Therapeutic Horseback Riding Crossover Effects of Attachment Behaviors with Family Pets in a Sample of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(3), 256; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030256
Received: 20 January 2017 / Revised: 10 February 2017 / Accepted: 20 February 2017 / Published: 3 March 2017
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Abstract
The unique needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have implications for animal welfare. This nested pilot study examined the effects of a randomized trial of 10-week therapeutic horseback riding (THR) intervention versus a no-horse barn activity (BA) control group on children’s
[...] Read more.
The unique needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have implications for animal welfare. This nested pilot study examined the effects of a randomized trial of 10-week therapeutic horseback riding (THR) intervention versus a no-horse barn activity (BA) control group on children’s behaviors with family pets. Sixty-seven (THR n = 31; BA n = 36) participants with ASD (ages 6–16 years) with one or more family pet, were enrolled from a larger trial (n = 116) following their randomization to intervention groups, stratified by nonverbal intellectual ability. A consistent caregiver completed questionnaires about participants’ interactions with their household pets pre- and post-intervention. Caregivers of THR group participants reported significant improvements in participants’ caring actions with the family pet compared with the BA group (p = 0.013; effect size = 0.74). Engaging with horses during a standard THR intervention protocol may generalize to improving caring actions toward family pets in children and adolescents with ASD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)

Review

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Open AccessReview Dogs in the Workplace: A Review of the Benefits and Potential Challenges
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(5), 498; doi:10.3390/ijerph14050498
Received: 24 March 2017 / Revised: 12 April 2017 / Accepted: 1 May 2017 / Published: 8 May 2017
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Abstract
Pet dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs can be seen in workplaces with increasing frequency. Although dogs may provide many benefits to employees and employers, their presence may introduce additional hazards and concerns to the work environment. Therefore, decisions to accept dogs in
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Pet dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs can be seen in workplaces with increasing frequency. Although dogs may provide many benefits to employees and employers, their presence may introduce additional hazards and concerns to the work environment. Therefore, decisions to accept dogs in the workplace may include many considerations including the health, safety, and well-being of employees, legal and cultural sensitivities, and animal welfare. The present paper serves to introduce the issue of dogs in the workplace and outline the potential benefits and challenges to their presence. The legal accommodations afforded to certain types of dogs in workplace settings are discussed, and the research findings pertaining to the potential benefits of dogs on human health and well-being are summarized. The paper concludes with considerations for human resource management personnel in the areas of diversity, employee relations, ethics and corporate responsibility, organizational and employee development, safety and security, and legal considerations, as well as suggested topics for future research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)
Open AccessReview Companion Animals and Child/Adolescent Development: A Systematic Review of the Evidence
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(3), 234; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030234
Received: 23 November 2016 / Revised: 16 January 2017 / Accepted: 20 February 2017 / Published: 27 February 2017
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Abstract
Childhood and adolescence are important developmental phases which influence health and well-being across the life span. Social relationships are fundamental to child and adolescent development; yet studies have been limited to children’s relationships with other humans. This paper provides an evidence review for
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Childhood and adolescence are important developmental phases which influence health and well-being across the life span. Social relationships are fundamental to child and adolescent development; yet studies have been limited to children’s relationships with other humans. This paper provides an evidence review for the potential associations between pet ownership and emotional; behavioural; cognitive; educational and social developmental outcomes. As the field is in the early stages; a broad set of inclusion criteria was applied. A systematic search of databases and grey literature sources found twenty-two studies meeting selection criteria. The review found evidence for an association between pet ownership and a wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership; particularly for self-esteem and loneliness. The findings regarding childhood anxiety and depression were inconclusive. Studies also showed evidence of an association between pet ownership and educational and cognitive benefits; for example, in perspective-taking abilities and intellectual development. Evidence on behavioural development was unclear due to a lack of high quality research. Studies on pet ownership and social development provided evidence for an association with increased social competence; social networks; social interaction and social play behaviour. Overall, pet ownership and the significance of children’s bonds with companion animals have been underexplored; there is a shortage of high quality and longitudinal studies in all outcomes. Prospective studies that control for a wide range of confounders are required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)
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