JoAnna Lou
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$2 Million to Study the Human-Animal Bond
Research on the health benefits of pets begins to receive major funding.

While I don’t need any studies to know the benefits of the human-animal bond, research in this area is critical to the support of programs and legislation that dog lovers care about. Now, more institutions are receiving funding to explore the effect that animals have on humans.

Last month, I wrote about a $300,000 government funded study that seeks to quantify the impact of service dogs on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Recently, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, is partnering with the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition to study whether animals can affect the wellbeing of humans, with an emphasis on children. The Mars company has already committed more than $2 million to the efforts.

The team will fund multiple studies that explore how relationships with pets affect human development and health, the variability of human-animal relationships within families, and potential public-health benefits. They’re currently accepting applications for grants. 

The National Institutes of Health’s interest in this area goes back to 1987, when they first concluded that more research was needed on the benefits of pets, especially on child development. I’m glad that these studies are finally getting the funding they deserve, but I’m even more excited to see what kinds of programs will grow out of this research.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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