As I’ve been outside more with the warmer weather I’m constantly seeing people out walking their dogs. I’m always so appreciative of how gracious most people are when my children flock to them with excited requests to pet their adorable pooches. There is definitely a decreased sense of isolation and increased opportunities for connection with a furry friend by your side. Not to mention, animals have a positive impact on our moods increasing levels of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. These benefits are being capitalized in the many forms of animal-assisted therapies available today. The other day I read a post about a dentist who is bringing his dog into the office to help alleviate anxiety in his young patients.
I’ve also noticed more cautions about protecting animals from extreme heat, which to some would seem a no brainer. In fact, at a workshop organized by HAV (Human Animal Violence) LINK Coalition of the Waterloo Region last May, several of my colleagues and I were reminded by presenter Phil Arkow of the central role pets play in people’s lives. Although still legally recognized as property, when surveyed the majority of people regard pets as members of the family. The workshop’s goal was to draw attention to the link between domestic abuse and animal abuse. Sadly pets are often a barrier to women staying in abusive relationships because of the limited resources available to ensure their wellbeing while in shelter. As an agency we’ve responded by adjusting our safety plans to include a safety plan for pets. We encourage animal lovers to talk with your local vets about their vital role as the family physician who may notice concerning things that may be early signs of abuse. Our presenter talked about how people, including perpetrators seem to be more open to talk about the mistreatment of pets. He suggested that all service providers ask three important questions: 1. Are there animals at home? 2. How are they cared for? and 3. Are you worried about their welfare? We are thrilled with the growing partnership between the local shelter and humane society to ensure placement of animals. I’ve also seen this barrier in individual clients with mental health issues who are unable to seek in-patient treatment. For these individuals, animals are lifelines, constant companions and dear friends. One client expressed feeling like a parent that would be abandoning her children. HAV Link also proposed support for such individuals, especially the elderly and those in poverty. Since attending the workshop, I’ve tried to be more diligent about asking people about what role pets may play in their life.