Human Animal Bond and Sheltering in Place


Dr. Elizabeth Bales is host, as I join her with Dr. Laird Goodman, president of the Human Animal Bond Association. Our wide ranging discussion includes everything from pro’s or con’s of spending so much time with our pets; why adoption and foster rates in some parts of the U.S. are happily so high and how the human animal bond extends beyond dogs and cats. My Northern Blue Tongue Skink, Cosette, even makes a rare appearance. And, who knew, Dr. Bales had a secret skink love affair with a two-headed skink.

Here’s one definition of the human animal bond from the Human Animal Bond Association, “The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and other animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, other animals, and the environment. The veterinarian’s role in the human-animal bond is to maximize the potentials of this relationship between people and other animals.”

So, what’s happening to the bond right now?

Love the memes out there. One meme shows several dogs around a table. All saying in those cartoon bubble, “I’m so glad you’re home,” “Maybe a pandemic isn’t so bad after all – I get to be with the family, all day, every day.” The cat little bubble says, “No one consulted me about this.”

So are the pets happier? Well, for sure, we’re better off for them being there. We know that pets are good for us, beneficial to our mental and physical health. Studies form around the globe demonstrate a myriad of those benefits.

And the human-animal isn’t solely about dogs and cats, certainly people do have important bonds with pet lizards, pet hamsters and gerbils, certainly pet rats and even aquarium fish. Still, that’s arguably not the same as dogs and cats.

So, are those of us with pets going to come out of this social distancing psychologically better than those without? Wouldn’t that be a great study?

Certainly, you may likely get more exercise if you walk your dog. Of course, that’s beneficial to the dog also – especially since we have so many overweight and obese dogs.  That bond moves from one end of the leash to the other, as those feel good hormones travel like a highway down the leash and back to us. And the same when we simply pet our dogs or cats.

In fact, one study demonstrated that even people without dogs who happen to be walking down the street mostly smile at the sight of a dog. When you smile, hormones in your head do a little happy dance. So, by walking dogs – bit by bit – we’re spreading some community joy – even if 6-feet away.