Letter from CAIRC
July 1998 Vol.2 No.5

"8th International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions"
Prague around the Corner

IAHAIO Prague Conference Theme,
"The Changing Roles of Animals in Society"

From September 10th to 12th of this year, the "8th International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions" will be held in Prague in the Czech Republic. Over 800 people from 25 countries, including researchers from various fields, specialists from organizations involved in the study of the relationship between humans and animals, mass media and so on, are expected to take part in this epoch-making international conference. Under the theme of "The Changing Roles of Animals in Society," this conference will present reports on the historical, cultural, demographic, public-health, veterinary, therapeutic, psychological, sociological and ethological aspects of our relationships with animals. This 8th conference will be of major interest to researchers and to practitioners in the field of relationships with animals and the roles they play in our lives -looking at the past, the present and the future — especially barriers and challenges to future change, along with a variety of information exchange opportunities.

This convention will be held by IAHAIO, the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations, which was founded in 1990 to gather together national associations and related organizations interested in advancing the understanding and appreciation of the link between animals and humans. These conferences were first held in London in 1977, and continued in Philadelphia, Vienna, Boston, Monaco and other cities. This time the local Czech pet organization AOVZ and the French companion animal information and research organization AFIRAC have taken on the duties of hosting the conference.

The IAHAIO, has affiliates from 21 groups around the world including the Japanese Animal Hospital Welfare Association in Japan. The Association's Secretariat is based at the Delta Society in Renton, Washington, USA with representatives from four sub-committees coordinating membership, conferences, projects and finance from other associations around the globe. The Association's main role is to provide a helpful coordinating structure between all member countries. Now worldwide interest, support and needs for this young science, the "Study of Human-Animal Interactions", are increasing. It is in planning for the development of this field that the role of the IAHAIO becomes all the more important.

The Great Possibilities Held Out in the Field of
"The Study of Human-Animal Interactions"

The field of the "Study of Human-Animal Interactions" has become relatively secure in Japan as well. In 1994, the "Society for the Study of Human-Animal Relations" (Chairman: Yoshihiro Hayashi, Professor of the University of Tokyo) was established, and in 1997, the "Human-Animal Interactions Study (Anthrozoology)" laboratory was created by Professor Mitsuko Masui at Azabu University. Today it can be said that this field is continuing to grow.

Recently, it is said that there is a "pet boom," but with the decrease in the number of children and the increase in the number of elderly in the graying society of modern Japan, the importance of dogs or cats as companions to children with no brothers or sisters, or as a family member for the elderly who are losing contact with society, is not insignificant. So not only for children and the elderly, but also for any isolated modern-day person, dogs and cats are increasingly taking on the role of therapist. It is perhaps this background that is the primary factor drawing such great interest in the field of the "Study of Human-Animal Interactions".

On the other hand, not only the external psychological benefits, but also the health benefits of pets are becoming understood. Let us introduce the results of the large-scale investigation presented in 1992. This research was conducted on 5,741 people between the ages of 20 and 59 attending a screening clinic in Melbourne, Australia, where pet ownership or the lack thereof and the risk factor of cardiovascular disease (risk factors refer to physiological, behavioral, or environmental elements that are associated with an increased likelihood of developing a specific disease) was investigated and comparatively analyzed. According to this investigation, the 784 pet owners, in comparison to the 4,957 people who did not own pets, had lower systolic blood pressures and plasma triglycerides than the non-owners. And male pet owners' had significantly lower systolic blood pressure, plasma cholesterol and plasma triglyceride levels than the non-owners.

A report on the effects of pet ownership on people with vascular disease was also presented in 1980. According to this study, for people entering the hospital with heart disease, the survival rate one year after leaving the hospital was higher for pet owners than for those who did not own pets.

Only 5.7% of the 53 pet owners compared with 28.2% of the 39 patients who did not own pets died within one year of hospitalization. Pet ownership other than dogs was also investigated, and the results showed a higher rate of survival for those pet owners as well.

In recent years, many studies like this are continuing in the field of the "Study of Human-Animal Interactions." As in this year's international conference theme, "The Changing Roles of Animals in Society," there are great possibilities held out for this field to be able to support society in a variety of ways.

Three research members for the "Study of Human-Companion Animal Interactions" will be sent to the Prague Conference!

As reported in the June edition of our newsletter, three members on "Study of Human-Companion Animal Interactions" research scholarships from the "Companion Animal Research and Information Center" have been asked to attend the "IAHAIO Prague Conference." At present, all three are making progress in their respective research and experiments. At this time, all three members receiving scholarships have happily agreed to attend and speak about their aspirations at the Prague Conference.

"Looking into Stress for Dogs Participating in Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity" (Ms. Yoshiko Uchida)

"I am very pleased that I could receive a scholarship. After spending a year studying abroad in the U.S. in 1995 and returning to Japan, I feel that the field of the "Study of Human-Animal Interactions" is really starting to take hold in people's minds. I own a dog myself and take part in animal-assisted activities, and volunteer groups are also increasing. However, for the dogs used in these activities, only the convenience of the people is considered. Whether or not the dogs feel stress has not been fully researched. If possible, I would like to see that only dogs that feel no stress and are happy to participate are used, and to this end I am researching the stress levels for dogs used in animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities. I am really looking forward to attending lectures by people on the cutting edge of our field at the Prague Conference this year. I also expect much from the results of new research."
Research theme: "On Choosing Dogs Used in Animal-Assisted Therapy." Assistant Professor of Rakuno Gakuen University. Born and living in Hokkaido. 36 years old.

"The Great Possibilities Companion Animals have for the Health of the Elderly" (Mr. Masaru Uechi)

"At present, I am conducting research on the elderly living at home in a town in Ibaraki Prefecture. In this research I am examining the connection of the single custom of keeping pets as life-style customs on health maintenance. In actuality, as my research grant is insufficient, my studies were in a difficult situation, so I was very happy I could receive this scholarship. As there has been only a little research in this field on the elderly at home, I believe the importance of the possibilities in the relationship between human and companion animals in my research will become clear. As for the Prague Conference, I am looking forward to exchanging information with other researchers from around the world. I am also very interested in where research methodologies and research reports are being reported."
Research theme: "The Effects of Companion Animals on the Health of Elderly People Living at Home - Using IADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) and Biological Indicators as Criteria." Doctoral student, Tsukuba University Graduate School. Born in Okinawa Prefecture and living in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. 28 years old.

"Imminent Common Problem Activities for Dogs at Grooming Parlors" (Ms. Yukiko Arakawa)

"Previously, I had often heard of problem activities at grooming parlors. However, when I actually looked into it, I realized there was even more problem behavior than I had expected. With the help of my co-researcher, Ms. Kitagawa, who is a trimmer, I thought we would analyze questionnaires distributed to trimmers about dogs at grooming parlors. I decided to look into the background of the type of problem activities, the dog breed, the dog sex and so on. To tell the truth, I am a bit nervous participating in the Prague Conference. I am sure there will be many themes I am interested in, but I am worried about how it will turn out. But, since I heard Ms. Kitagawa will be attending this conference, I am a little relieved. "
Research theme: "Research and Study of the Problem Behavior of Dogs in Grooming Parlors." Student of Azabu University. Born in Fukushima Prefecture and living in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. 21 years old.