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Abstracts from Volume 40, Number 4
(December, 2013)

Special Issue on Animals:
Redefining Social Welfare: Connections across Species
Special Editor: Christina Risley-Curtiss

INTRODUCTION TO THE SPECIAL ISSUE:
REDEFINING SOCIAL WELFARE: CONNECTIONS
ACROSS SPECIES
Christina Risley-Curtiss

 

HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF ANIMAL
EXPLOITATION: NEEDS FOR REDEFINING SOCIAL
WELFARE

Atsuko Matsuoka and John Sorenson

This paper addresses an area which has not been given serious
consideration in social welfare and social work literature, the instrumental
use of nonhuman animals, in particular as food, and
argues that the welfare of humans and other animals are intertwined.
The paper examines the consequences of animal exploitation
for humans in terms of health, well-being, environmental
damage, and exploitation of vulnerable human groups. The
paper concludes that a necessary redefinition of social welfare
entails attention to these issues and the recognition that other
animals have inherent value and their rights must be respected.


THE IMPACT OF COMPANION ANIMALS ON SOCIAL
CAPITAL AND COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: SETTING
RESEARCH, POLICY AND PROGRAM AGENDAS

Phil Arkow

The term social capital has been used to describe the networks and
other forces that build social cohesion, personal investment, reciprocity,
civic engagement, and interpersonal trust among residents
in a community. With the exception of three Australian reports
describing positive associations between companion animal ownership
and social capital, the literature has neglected to include the
presence or absence of companion animal residents of communities
as factors that could potentially affect social capital and serve as protective
factors for community well-being. Companion animals are
present in significantly large numbers in most communities, where
they have considerable economic impact and provide emotional
and physiologic health benefits and social support to their owners.
Companion animals may mitigate the stresses of urban living and
counteract what has been called “nature-deficit disorder.” Conversely,
they may also be the victims of cruelty, abuse and neglect
which can adversely affect the quality of life and social capital of a
community. Efforts to measure the impact of companion animals on
social capital are constrained by a lack of accurate data on companion
animal populations and by gaps in our knowledge of attitudes
toward companion animal ownership, particularly in communities
of color. An agenda for research, public policy and programmatic
activities to address these gaps is proposed to help determine whether
the resilience and protective factors which companion animals
can offer individuals extend to community populations as well.


RELATIONAL ECOLOGY: A THEORETICAL
FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN–
ANIMAL BOND

Jennifer M. Putney

This qualitative study investigated the perceived impact of
companion animals on the psychological well-being of lesbian
women over age 65. Twelve women, ranging in age from
65-80, were interviewed with a semi-structured interview
guide. Four thematic findings are highlighted: love and attachment,
animals in transitional spaces, challenges and rewards
of caregiving, and preparation for death. The author offers the
term “relational ecology” to explain how animals contribute to
well-being. This integrates the growth task model of human development,
object relations theory, liminality, and deep ecology.


CHILDREN'S IDEAS ABOUT THE MORAL STANDING
AND SOCIAL WELFARE OF NON-HUMAN SPECIES

Gail F. Melson

Moral and social welfare issues related to humane treatment of
animals confront children and continue to be important societal
issues through adulthood. Despite this, children’s moral reasoning
about animals has been largely ignored. This paper addresses six
questions concerning how children reason morally about non-human
animals: (1) How do children think about the moral claims of
animals? Is there a developmental progression in such reasoning?
(2) How does moral reasoning about animals differ from moral
reasoning about other life forms—plants and ecological systems?
(3) What is the relation, if any, between children’s moral reasoning
about non-human animals and their moral reasoning about
other humans? (4) How do child characteristics and environmental
factors contribute to individual differences in children’s moral
reasoning about animals? (5) What is the relation between moral
reasoning about animals and children’s behaviors toward animals?
(6) What is known about children’s kindness toward and nurturing
of animals—examples of prosocial reasoning and behavior?


EXPANDING THE ECOLOGICAL LENS IN CHILD
WELFARE PRACTICE TO INCLUDE OTHER ANIMALS

Christina Risley-Curtiss

Sixty-nine million U.S. households have companion animals and
most of these families consider these animals to be family members.
Research shows that children have powerful emotional connections
with animals that can be both beneficial and harmful. Considerable
research findings report that violence against animals often co-occurs
with, indicates, or predicts other forms of family violence, including
child abuse. A companion animal may be an abused child’s
confidante, and separation from that animal through foster care
may be a source of stress and grief for that child. Child welfare
agencies are slowly acknowledging some animal–human relationships,
especially in regard to animal abuse and family violence, yet
professional acceptance of the significance of animals in the lives of
children is often piecemeal. Being a meaningful part of the family
system means that including questions and observations about the
past and current presence of animals in child welfare households, the
meaning those animals have for each family member, their care, and
whether any of them have been hurt or killed is important to effective
family-centered practice. This article discusses how taking a more
ecological approach by consciously integrating animal–human relationships
into child welfare practice can help caseworkers make a
more accurate and useful assessment of child safety and well-being.


CROSS-REPORTING OF INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE
AND ANIMAL CRUELTY: THE CHARLOTTE PROJECT

Dennis D. Long and Shanti J. Kulkarni

The overlapping nature of interpersonal violence and animal cruelty
is well established, however historically each issue has been
addressed by distinct and separate protective systems. An innovative
community-based project is described that utilized crosstraining
as a mechanism to foster collaboration between human
services and animal control agencies. Findings are useful for professionals
and community stakeholders interested in facilitating
the cross-reporting of interpersonal violence and animal cruelty.


ENVIRONMENTAL BELIEFS AND CONCERN ABOUT
ANIMAL WELFARE: EXPLORING THE CONNECTIONS
Catherine A. Faver

An online survey examined environmental beliefs and concern
about animal welfare among 105 social work students in the U.S.-
Mexico border region. Environmental beliefs were measured using
items from the revised New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) Scale
(Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, & Jones, 2000). Higher concern about
animal welfare was significantly related to three dimensions of the
revised NEP Scale: (1) belief in the fragility of nature’s balance, (2)
belief in the possibility of an ecological crisis, and (3) rejection of the
notion that humans have a right to dominate nature (anti-anthropocentrism).
The findings suggest that by making explicit connections
between the needs of the natural environment, animals, and
people, social work educators may foster a broader ecological worldview
that encompasses the well-being of all species and ecosystems.


INSTITUTIONALIZING HARM IN TENNESSEE: THE
RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO HUNT AND FISH
Lois Presser and Jennifer L. Schally

What discourses render harm to nonhumans a right? In this article
we consider the case of Tennessee’s Senate Joint Resolution
30, which proposed to grant citizens “the personal right
to hunt and fish.” To clarify the institutional logics legitimizing
such harm, we analyzed the text of the Resolution as well
as statements by politicians and others leading up to the passage
of the amendment the Resolution would enact. Logics that
supported the Resolution were: (1) claims of the economic utility
of hunting and fishing; (2) veneration of the past; and (3)
claims of future infringement on said activities. Nonhuman targets
of harm go unmentioned in these legitimizing discourses.


SHELTER FROM THE STORM: COMPANION ANIMAL
EMERGENCY PLANNING IN NINE STATES
Jessica J. Austin

Failure to evacuate pets in an emergency has negative implications
for public health, the economy, emotional well-being of pet
owners, and physical health of animals. These effects may be at
least partially mitigated by a robust plan to accommodate pets.
Nine state companion animal emergency plans were reviewed to
determine the extent to which they addressed the needs of companion
animals, utilizing characteristics of a model emergency
plan. States were compared utilizing variables such as population,
pet friendliness, and emergency preparedness funding in
order to explain differences in plan composition. This comprehensive
review produced a list of recommendations for emergency
managers as they create future versions of their plans.


“LEADS” TO EXPANDED SOCIAL NETWORKS,
INCREASED CIVIL ENGAGEMENT AND DIVISIONS
WITHIN A COMMUNITY: THE ROLE OF DOGS
Catherine Simpson Bueker

Dogs play a distinct role in their impact on human relationships
and processes because of the unique role they play in
American society, existing in a liminal space of “almost”
human. Both the level of emotional attachment and the requisite
daily care make dogs important players in bringing humans
in contact with one another and mediating human relationships.
This study examines the role that dogs play in mediating relationships
between and among humans. By analyzing 24 in-depth interviews,
as well as Letters to the Editor, editorials, and other items in
a local newspaper, and observing public meetings around dog usage
at a local park, I identify a range of ways that dogs influence social
relationships and processes, even for those who do not have dogs
in their homes. On the positive side, I find that dogs act as “tickets”
for people to socialize and develop relationships, they facilitate
the diversification of social networks, and they act as an avenue
to political participation. On the negative side, dog ownership
and dog breeds can become the basis for clique formation, stereotypes,
and boundary formation, serving as grounds for exclusion.


HUMANS’ BONDING WITH THEIR COMPANION
DOGS: CARDIOVASCULAR BENEFITS DURING AND
AFTER STRESS
Rebecca A. Campo and Bert N. Uchino

This study examined whether having one’s companion dog present
during and after stress posed similar cardiovascular benefits as
having a close friend present, even when the relationship quality
for both the companion dog and friend was highly positive. Positive
aspects of relationship quality for participants’ dog and friend were
not associated with one another, suggesting that these relationships
exist independently. Additionally, compared to participants
with a close friend present, those with their dog present had lower
heart rate and diastolic blood pressure (p’s < .05) while undergoing
the stressors, and tended to have lower heart rate and systolic
blood pressure (p’s < .09) when recovering from stressors. This
study indicates that even when relationship quality is similarly
high for companion dogs and friends, dogs may be associated with
greater reductions in owners’ cardiovascular reactivity to stress,
particularly if there is a potential for evaluation apprehension in
the human friendships. These findings support the value of the human-
companion animal relationship in promoting human welfare.


ATTACHMENT, SOCIAL SUPPORT, AND PERCEIVED
MENTAL HEALTH OF ADULT DOG WALKERS: WHAT
DOES AGE HAVE TO DO WITH IT?
F. Ellen Netting, Cindy C. Wilson, Jeffrey L. Goodie
Mark B. Stephens, Christopher G. Byers,
and Cara H. Olsen

In part of a larger pilot study of dog walking as a physical activity
intervention we assessed levels of attachment, social supports, and
perceived mental health of 75 dog owners, identified through a tertiary-
care veterinary hospital. Owners completed the Medical Outcomes
Study (MOS) Social Support Survey, mental health component
of the Short-Form-12 (SF-12) Health Survey, and the Lexington
Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS). Of particular interest was
that younger owners had stronger attachments to their dogs (r =
-.488; p < .001) and less social support (r = .269; p = .021). Our study suggests the importance of companion animals for social support,
particularly for those without close friends/relatives. For younger
owners, our study reveals vulnerabilities in support networks that
may warrant referrals to human helping professionals. We suggest
the use of Carstensen’s Socioemotional Selectivity Theory as an
interpretive framework to underscore the importance of including
companion animals as part of the human social convoy, especially
in terms of providing affectionate and interactional social support.


EFFECTS OF COMPANION ANIMAL OWNERSHIP
AMONG CANADIAN STREET-INVOLVED YOUTH: A
QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS
Michelle Lem, Jason B. Coe, Derek B. Haley,
Elizabeth Stone, and William O'Grady

In Canada, approximately 150,000 youth are homeless on any
given night, and many have companion animals. Through a
series of semi-structured interviews, this qualitative study explored
the issues and effects of companion animal ownership
among street-involved youth from the perspective of the youth
themselves. “Pet before self” was the substantive theme, with first
level sub-themes of “physical” and “emotional” effects. Previously
unidentified findings include benefits of having a companion
animal, such as creating structure and routine and decreasing
use of drugs. Loss of the companion animal was a negative
effect. Youth consistently reported making choices to stay with
their animal regardless of liabilities for their own health or success.
Service providers should understand and support the significant
human–animal bond that can exist for these homeless youth.


STAFF VIEWS ON THE INVOLVEMENT OF ANIMALS
IN CARE HOME LIFE: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY
Jane Fossey and Vanessa Lawrence

This qualitative study examined the views of one hundred and eight
care staff working in fifteen care homes in the United Kingdom
about the involvement of animals in the care practices of the home.
The perceived benefits and difficulties of delivering person-centered
and psychosocial care, including the involvement of animals were
explored. The findings describe the main themes related to animal
involvement elicited from staff. These include the benefits to residents’
well-being and the varying challenges that visiting and residential
animals pose. The implications for practice are discussed and
the need for clearer information for care home teams is identified.


Index of Volume XL, 2013

 

 

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Western Michigan University
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