This chapter discusses the role that companion animals play in people's quality of life. Although these contributions can enhance anyone's life, they are especially crucial for persons whose network of social support is limited. Abundant research literature on human social support has documented the essential role of relationships for avoiding early mortality and morbidity. Animals provide support by offering love and comfort that somewhat becomes a substitute when human companionship is lacking. Animals can play a major positive role in people's lives, moreover, if the animal is well suited to the person's living situation, the person can easily manage to take care of the animal, and behavior problems are avoided. Health professionals thus have an opportunity to provide leadership in assisting in individualized pet placements with follow-ups to increase the rate of success and anticipate problems before they become serious. Many volunteers who currently bring animal-assisted activities to individuals residing in institutions with guidance could assist precarious individuals still living within the community. Such leadership is also needed to develop new creative solutions for offering more flexible means of having continued contact with animals in later life, but associated with less demanding responsibilities. Community-based councils that include the various constituencies concerned with human and animal health would be well positioned to begin tackling these challenges.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Professions(all)