|"8th International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions"
800 People Gather for Meetings Held on the Theme of
"The Changing Roles of Animals in Society"
99 Japanese Join the Conference in Prague
Research and investigations
by 42 countries from around the world on a wide range of topics
such as the relationship between companion animals and children
and the elderly or animal-assisted therapy to the actual condition
of animals in relatively unheard from countries.
10 - 12, the "8th International Conference on Human-Animal
Interactions" (hereafter referred to as the Prague Conference)
was held in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The conference
was sponsored by the IAHAIO (International Association of Human-Animal
Interaction Organizations), an international organization made up
of the domestic cooperatives and associations of many countries
for researchers concerned with the relationship between humans and
animals. 800 people from 42 countries such as scientists, animal
welfare specialists, veterinarians, psychologists and so on, who
are taking part in the research of the relationship between humans
and animals, gathered to present reports on various topics. In the
previous Geneva Conference (1995) only 20 people from Japan participated,
but at this conference 99 participants, second only to the 134 people
from the Czech Republic, took part, showing the growing interest
in this field of study among the Japanese people.
At this conference, reports were presented
and opinions exchanged from a variety of angles and points of view
on the topic of "The Changing Roles of Animals in Society."
Reports were presented at five halls on a total 80 topics ranging
from the efforts being made regarding the relationship of the elderly
and companion animals, school education on pet care, animal-assisted
therapy, pet loss, managing pets in large cities and such in developed
countries to the efforts being made regarding the conditions and
background of animals in countries which have previously been relatively
unheard from such as China, Brazil, South Africa and so on. Also
46 topics were presented through posters on the walls and it was
common to see those attending the conference carefully reading the
panels one by one or amicably chatting with the presenters.
As mentioned before three "CAIRC
Human-Companion Animal Interaction Research" scholarship recipients
from Japan attended the Prague Conference. We asked Ms. Yoshiko
Uchida (Assistant Professor of Rakuno University) to act as a representative
of the three members and provide her impression of the conference
in the following.
"There were so many dogs at this
conference. I was deeply impressed by the sight of so many seeing-eye
dogs and assistant dogs laying calmly on the floor in the middle
this conference and I hope the day will come that the same may be
seen in Japan. I really listened to presentations continuously for
3 days from 8:40 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but to my regret there were
so many programs running simultaneously that I was not able to hear
everything. Among all the presentations, I was most impressed by
the special lecture from Warwick University, UK, on pets and autistic
children and patients. Research has shown great changes in sick
patients in regarding their relationship to pets and those toward
their families. People who resisted human physical contact took
great pleasure in hugging and petting their own pets. I would like
to conduct similar research in the near future, and make observations
from a veterinarian's perspective on this contact from the animal's
side. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to take part
in such a fantastic conference."
The important role animals can play in
the upbringing of children and the problems inherent in an aging society
Many presentations referred to research
into the role played by pets in regards to the problems of an aging
society. Professor Parminder Raina of the University of British
Colombia, Canada, presented a report on whether or not there is
any difference in the health of senior citizens who own pets. Senior
citizens who did not own pets used medical services around a total
of 37 times in a year, whereas those who did own pets averaged around
30 times. Additionally, non-pet owner hospital stays averaged 13
days in contrast to pet owners whose stays did not exceed eight
days. In Canada seniors (over 65 years old) incur 40% of the costs
of health care services annually. This shows that pets do play a
role in health maintenance for the elderly, and in the future it
is possible that pets could take part in reducing rising medical
A poster presented by Professor Marie-Jose'
Enders-Slegers of the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands pointed
out how the keeping of cats by senior citizens suffering from dementia
living in nursing homes can create a warmer more comfortable environment
for the elderly, staff, visitors and so on. If this research is
successful, we could expect it to have a major effect in Japan where
the average life expectancy is already passing beyond 80 years.
Professor Emeritus Yoichi Shoda of Tokyo
University (President of the Companion Animal Information and Research
Center) took part in this year's conference and has the following
"Companion animals will have a large
part in the consideration of an aging society. "Human-Companion
Animal Interaction Research" scholarship recipient, Mr. Masaru
Uechi's (doctoral student of Tsukuba University) research, "Effects
of Companion Animals on the Health of Shut-in Elderly," also
delves into the problems of an aging society. We can all anticipate
respectable results to arise from this type of research."
Reports on the importance of pets in the
upbringing of children also attracted a lot of attention. The previously
mentioned research into autistic patients by Warwick University
and the presentation by Professor Gail F. Melson of Purdue University,
USA, on "The Role of Pets in Family Support" are linked
to this topic. Professor Melson spoke on her conclusion that "pets
are the lubrication in a family." Pets particularly display
an impact when families gather for weekend events or such. According
to Professor Melson's investigation, 42% of children answered of
their own accord that "pets play a role in supporting the children
The elderly, child rearing... It seems that pets play some part in the mental
health of society's weak such as children and the elderly. There is no doubt that
need for Human-Companion Animal Interaction Research will only grow larger in
Co-sponsor, WHO, Working for the Highest Level of Health for
People of the World
The WHO (World Health Organization) co-sponsored
this year's conference drawing the attention of a great many people.
Now, it is said many people in this modern age who are not ill,
cannot be called healthy either due to stress. However, it is the
aim of the WHO to provide a true meaning for health. It is to that
end that the WHO is taking a position in cooperation with IAHAIO.
With the goal of maintaining health at the highest level for people
throughout the world, the WHO is joining hands in this field and
there is no doubt that this will be the start of new developments.
In countries around the world various methodologies are making progress
in animal-assisted therapy. Additionally, researchers in this field
along with veterinarians and other groups are leading the way to
clarify a definition in order to resolve "Guidelines for Animal
Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy."
Animal behaviorist, Dr. Bruce Fogle, well
known for his many publications, spoke in his keynote speech on
the transition of the role of animals which is undergoing in Europe.
After a long history as a source of material for food or clothing,
the role of animals as beasts of burden is decreasing and changing
in the present to one of companion or partner. Today the phrase
"into home and heart" is used about animals. We now allow
our animals into our homes while bringing them into our hearts at
the same time.
We at the
"Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC)"
also prepared a booth at this year's conference. Along with introducing
the activities conducted by the CAIRC, we informed people about
the situation in Japan on the matters of keeping pets in communal
living areas and so on. Of course our booth was a location for the
exchange of information with other people attending the conference.
We met many other people and the participation of American and European
medical practitioners such as doctors, social workers, and so on
was clarified for us. Veterinarians have taken the lead in the field
of "Human-Animal Interaction Research." Now, though sociologists
are also beginning to conduct research in this area. It is becoming
increasingly important today for medical practitioners to take part
in "Human-Animal Interaction Research" with their research
field also included. We at the CAIRC believe that through these
efforts "Human-Animal Interaction Research" will become
an even more clearly defined field of science, leading the enhancement
of human health.