Letter from CAIRC
July 2000 Vol.4 No.3

Second Presentation of Research Results on the Relationships Between Humans and Companion Animals
—Wide-ranging approaches gaining notoriety—

Four Scholarship Recipients Present their One-year Research Results

We at the Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC) have been granting scholarships under the theme "Research on the Relationship Between Humans and Companion Animals" since 1998. In June last year we selected five recipients, and recently made public the resulting research findings.

At a July 12 meeting held at Grand Ark Hanzomon in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward, findings from the second research session on the relationship between humans and companion animals were presented. Attendees included Ms. Yuki Koba, Mr. Hajime Tanida, Ms. Masako Tsuzuki, Ms. Hiromi Keino, Mr. Kunihiko Ito, Ms. Noriko Niijima, and Mr. Kotaro Taneichi, as well as the selection committee, made up of Prof. Mitsuaki Ohta of Azabu University, Prof. Yuji Mori of the University of Tokyo and Yoichi Shoda, CAIRC President. Dr. Shoda delivered his address at the opening of the meeting. (Ms. Haruka Takakura, last year's recipient, started her project later and therefore will report her research findings next year.)

Shoda said: "Characteristic of this year's reports were research findings in wide-ranging areas including the humanities such as sociology and psychology. I am pleased that these research fields are expanding. In 1998, the international conference on the relationship between humans and animals was held in the Czech Republic, where about 100 people from Japan participated. But only two research papers from Japanese were read on that occasion. However, in 2001 we can all look forward to the Rio de Janeiro conference in Brazil. With progress in research from a wide range of viewpoints including those to be reported on this occasion, I hope that research in Japan will be taken up at the next international conference, and that Japanese researchers will play an active role."

There was a time when humans benefited from animals merely in the capacity of livestock cultivation. In time, that process evolved into the process of domestication. However, now that our understanding of and research on animals has made more progress, we have effected the spread of a new concept of what it means to live with animals, which can be regarded as more than mere possessions, but fully understood as companions. It may be said that because we are now living in a highly digitized society, we have come to pay more attention to the effect of close contact with animals and the influences animals have on humans. The new field of research that focuses on the relationship between humans and companion animals emerged amid this kind of change in the times in which we live. So far, research has centered around veterinary medicine and animal ethology, but there is no doubt that this field will diversify and thus become a more meaningful area of academic work, bringing together the humanities and the natural sciences.


The Study and Analysis of Animal-Rearing at Kindergartens
—71.6% Encourage Contact Between Children and Animals


Research theme: "The Significance and Role of Companion Animals in the Education of kindergarten Children — Thoughts on the Welfare of both Humans and Companion Animals"

By Yuki Koba and Hajime Tanida

The researcher presenting this project, Yuki Koba, is a doctoral student at Hiroshima University Graduate School, where she is studying domestic animal behavior. The purpose of this project is to study the current situation of animal-rearing and the use of animals in education. Right now, many kinds of animals are being raised at kindergartens. However, the realities of how they are actually managed are not widely known. This research is thus quite meaningful both from the perspective of animal welfare and from that of preschool education.

This project consisted of research on kindergarten children and animals they are rearing. A questionnaire concerning the raising of animals was mailed to all 342 kindergartens in Hiroshima Prefecture, of which 196 kindergartens, or 57.3 percent, responded. As many as 169 kindergartens, or 86.2 percent, said they were keeping animals. The questionnaire attempts to investigate the situation of animal rearing at kindergartens and to analyze how these kindergartens think of the significance and role of animals in education.

In response to a question on whether the current attitudes of kindergarten children toward animals has changed compared with the past, 17.8 percent of respondents said either 'It has changed a little' or 'It has changed greatly.' Typically, these respondents' comments included remarks such as 'The children have abundant knowledge, but they cannot touch insects,' and 'The way they hold animals is rough,' or 'While some children show extraordinary interest in animals, an increasing number of children show no interest,' and also 'The children do not recognize the preciousness of life.'

In addition, 71.6 percent of kindergartens say they encourage kindergarten children to make contact with animals they are raising. Reasons given for this include: 'It can help develop the children's sense of responsibility,' and 'It can teach the preciousness of life by having the children understand the lifespan of animals,' as well as 'It can help nurture compassion among children.

According to a study by one kindergarten, the percentage of kindergarten children who do not have pets at home is as much as 70 percent. In such a situation, many kindergartens seem to have a desire to create for the children opportunities for close contact with animals, and to convey the importance of compassion for others, as well as an appreciation of the preciousness of life. However, as many as 70 species and breeds of animal are being raised for these purposes, and this entails more than a few problems, Ms Koba noted.

She said, "We would like to make two basic points. One involves the issue of sanitary supervision. There are many cases in which animals are being raised without the caretakers' understanding of the role of sanitation. The result is a degradation of animal welfare. The second point is on the issue of breeding management. There are cases in which small birds and rabbits are breeding too rapidly, with inbreeding resulting in an increasing number of deformed and stillborn offspring. There was one kindergarten at which the school had to give up raising animals inside classrooms because some children were allergic to animal hairs. Almost all kindergartens recognize the significance and role of raising animals, but none has prepared concrete educational programs, so we find ourselves in a situation in which caretakers are unable to make proper contact with animals. Due to these factors, the welfare of animals is often hindered. I felt it necessary to create an appropriate environment by methods such as producing manuals on how to raise animals. I believe that the significance and role of animal-raising in kindergarten education is first to provide an environment agreeable to animals and then to teach children how to make contact with animals, taking animal behavior into account."

Commenting on this presentation, Selection Committee member Professor Ohta said, "This is a very important piece of research. I would definitely like you to study further and research what kind of education programs will be needed in the future."


Toward Creating a Balance Index for the Handicapped
— Measuring Balance During Horseback Riding


Research theme: Physiological Research on the Relationship between Handicapped People and Horsesduring Horseback Riding

By Masako Tsuzuki, Hiromi Keino, Kunihiko Ito and Katsumi Mita

This research was presented by Ms. Masako Tsuzuki, who works as clinical testing technician at a medical and welfare research facility in Aichi Prefecture. The Institute for Developmental Research Aichi Human Service Center is a comprehensive medical and welfare research facility supporting physically and mentally handicapped people in such areas as medical treatment, education, vocational training and vocational aid. It also provides consultation and advice to home-bound disabled people and their families and conducts research into the causes of handicaps and how best to treat or compensate for them. Horseback riding an animal-assisted rehabilitative activity that is said to be effective from the perspective of its medical, educational and social effects as well as its role as a sporting activity. An increasing number of facilities have adopted this activity into their programs in the past few years. However, there is little or no data to gauge its effectiveness, only descriptive information.

Ms. Tsuzuki and her team have so far created several methods of evaluating the effectiveness of horseback riding for handicapped people, and have published some of them. A simple method to evaluate the mental effects has also been presented as a HEIM score. This is a method based on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, a standard by which autism is evaluated. It sets 10 selected items such as interpersonal relations, imitative action and sudden movement, and evaluates each item on a scale of five degrees of intensity. As a more objective method, the team also created a way of evaluating the manifestation of emotions with respect to the way smiles appear. This method evaluates the emergence of a smile in five stages. The subject's face is tested by videotaping it before, during and after the exercise. The test subject then judges the image of his or her own facial expressions in still images randomly selected from the video capture board. The team also created the HEIP score to judge physical effects of the activity. In this testing method, manifestations of cerebral palsy in the subject's upper body, hands and feet are divided into 8 levels, and then evaluated by breaking each level down into four sub-levels. The team has proven that horseback riding therapy has a strong effect on people with cerebral palsy.

This presentation is part of a series of efforts by the team toward an interim report aimed at establishing the best method by which to evaluate the effectiveness of horseback riding for the handicapped. It has been found that when handicapped people ride horses, their bodies becomes less tense and can more readily relax. This is especially true of subjects with cerebral palsy. Research team members thought that they would be able to measure this effect more precisely by demonstrating the physiological signals that indicate it. They therefore attached accelerometers and electromyography sensors to the humans and horses involved as they conducted their experiments in horseback riding.

The researchers measured the acceleration velocity simultaneously of both the humans and horses so that they could analyze recovery reactions that occur when people lose balance. The measurement used a small three-dimentional — back-front, left-right and up-down — accelerometer. For the electromyogram data, they carried out differential amplification using surface electrodes with a 15-milimeter diameter. Signals were collected through telemeter devices via radio transmission. For horse steps, they set a 6-meter run-up interval before the 21-meter measurement section of the course. The horse's walking velocity was measured at two different speeds, one at footpace (about 4 kilometers per hour) and the other at quicksteps (about 13 kilometers per hour). Six riders were selected — three able-bodied adults with horseback riding experience and another three subjects without.

According to the test results, the horse's acceleration velocity at footpace showed complex changes in all three dimensions, while that of the humans showed relatively simple waveforms. In addition, subjects with riding experience clearly showed narrower maximum changes in the up-down dimension. As a causative factor behind decreased acceleration velocity for humans, it is possible to assume that they absorbed the horse's movement with their bodies in order to maintain the head at a specific position. On the other hand, the acceleration velocity during quicksteps was five times as great as that at footpace. From these data, Ms. Tsuzuki's team draws the assumption that as they accumulate horseback riding experience, people learn to stabilize their quickstep horseback riding through backward motions that conform with the horse's up-and-down motion. In the future, Ms. Tsuzuki's team aims to measure data for he handicapped and analyze and compare it with that of healthy people, look for specific tendencies, and contrast data obtained before and after horseback riding. Ms. Tsuzuki said: "I would like to aim at creating an index for the effectiveness of horseback riding for the handicapped."

The team said the electromyogram failed to detect accurate numeric value because of noise from the friction of clothing and the thighs touching the horse's trunk. They are working on resolving these problems, and the team said they would like to conduct this experiment again.

For the experiment, they selected Kiso horses known for being placid, docile and patient. These horses were once of primary importance in Japanese agriculture and transportation, but have no such roles to play in modern times. Prof. Mori said: "This is a breed that has experienced the risk of extinction. I believe it is quite meaningful that this horse may be given an active role in horseback riding for the handicapped." Prof. Ohta commented: "Now, animal-assisted activities are attracting increased interest. I would like you to thoroughly verify their effectiveness."


First Sociological Approach!
Pets Can Be 'Others' That Influence Formation of the Ego


Research theme: "What do People Want from Pets? Why do Dog owners Resemble their dogs? — A Sociological Inquiry into Changing Views of Pets in Japan"

By Noriko Niijima

The past few years have seen a drastic increase in media exposure of pet-related stories. The new term "companion animal" is now here to stay as the relationships between human beings and their pets undergo major changes. The research by Ms. Noriko Niijima, who studies sociology at the University of Tokyo Graduate School, addresses these changes in the times. It analyzes the relationship between humans and pets and humans' views of pets from the perspectives of sociology and ego sociology. According to sociology, the human ego is formed through interaction with others. However, so far in the field of ego sociology, animals have not been viewed as others in the technical sociological and psychological sense as having an essential role in the formation of the ego.

Many have argued that animals cannot be called important others influencing the formation of the ego because they cannot communicate verbally with humans. Yet there is research indicating that words are not necessarily essential to this process. The argument presented by this research is that mother and infant can establish emotional relationships because emotional ties between the two grow through visual contact — watching and being looked at by each other. However, there has been no such research report that specifically recognizes animals as others. The study by Ms. Niijima, who says animals can be others that influence the formation of the ego, is an epoch-making work, studying for the first time pets from the viewpoint of ego sociology.

First, Ms. Niijima presented her survey on the significance of the existence of pets. In a keyword search of a growing database that was representative of current research papers and magazine articles, the word "animal" appeared 95 times in fiscal 1996, but that number increased to 679 in fiscal 1999. The word "pet" appeared in five places in the database in fiscal 1996 and the frequency rose drastically to 101 appearances during the same period. The words "companion animal" yielded no hits at all until fiscal 1997, but registered in five places in the database during and after fiscal 1998. Ms. Niijima also commented on contemporary society as a background factor.

The rapidly expanding and changing nature of contemporary society increasingly presents us with the challenge of problematic situations that are impossible to comprehend using conventional common sense. Under such a problematic social milieu, there may be a significant gap between the reality that one person perceives with respect to a certain subject and the reality perceived by others. The same pet dog might be thought of by one person as something like his or her own child, while to another person, the pet is simply the cause of noise that degrades relations between neighbors. Such clashes of perception can be termed reality dissociation, in which the ego, which is formed through interaction with others, tends to more easily fall into crisis. A feeling of exhaustion with regard to human relationships builds up, and as a result, a feeling that life is not worth living can emerge.

Ms. Niijima conducted face-to-face interviews with a total of 30 pet owners and former pet owners in their 20s to 70s, and analyzed their relations with and perceptions of their pets. People took issue with pet owners who were overfond of their pets as a substitute for human relationships, and those who disregard the rights of their pets and treat them as objects. However, the survey showed that relations between pet owners and pets were so diverse that they could not be fully comprehended in terms of these two simple categories.

She found that the meaning of the existence of a pet can be determined in part by the perceptive reality of a given person or the reality of a particular situation. She believes that in such human-animal relations it is essential to view animals as animals, to understand that they have a different existence and are not substitutes for humans. It is also important to see pets themselves as others on equal terms in some respects. Humans can make contact with animals straightforwardly and without concern for social ranking. So it can be assumed that by listening attentively to animals, humans receive tremendous input into the formation of the ego. Since a pet dog, for instance, has an equal sense of existence, it is possible for owners to accept a pet dog's behavior, and therefore to come to resemble the dog in certain respects.

Commenting on Ms. Niijima's presentation, Prof. Mori said: "Unlike research in natural science, accumulation of research results is important in this field. I think this research holds promise and is fruitful."


Companion Animals Reduce Stress Among Owners!

Research theme: "A Study of the Stress Relief Effects of Companion Animals"

By Kotaro Taneichi

Mr. Taneichi is a doctoral student at Waseda University Graduate School, majoring in clinical psychology. In the past, he has tackled the question of whether human support has a positive influence on health. This led him to the current line of research. The project is an investigation of whether keeping companion animals has stress relief effects for the owners. Mr. Taneichi says his idea for the project emerged when he asked college students the question 'Who do you confide in and tell your worries to?,' and several subjects mentioned names of their pets. More than a few people think having pets has psychologically beneficial effects, but this question has not often been approached academically. And approaches to the subject from the field of psychology have been especially rare.

Mr. Taneichi conducted a questionnaire survey of 239 students of Waseda University, and also created the ACCS, a scale for characterizing human-animal relationships. His research began with the creation of a provisional ACSS. Based on existing scales in the United States and Europe and on opinions from veterinarians and pet owners, 145 questions were created, and after categorizing them, the provisional scale was created with 30 items. Then in April-June, the questionnaire survey was conducted during college lecture time. The outcome was a scale comprising three groups of criteria — emotional support from pets, perceived confidence of the pet in the owner, and interaction with pets — and 10 items.

Comparisons with ACSS scores revealed that those who own pets at home or at their parents' homes tend to have higher scores the more time they spend with their pets per day on average. The comparison also found that cat owners showed a tendency to have higher scores in the 'interaction with pets' item than those who own dogs and other animals. In addition, Taneichi conducted hierarchical multiple regression analysis to predict stress reaction scores by cross-referencing factors such as whether the subject owns a pet or not, stress event scores and total ACSS scores. The result showed that there was no relation between whether the person owns pets or not and stress reaction level. On the other hand, ACSS scores differed depending on whether or not the person owns a pet. That is, in those who own pets, the higher their ACSS scores are, the lower their stress reaction scores are, while there was no relation between the two among non-pet owners. From these findings, Taneichi thought it highly possible that affection for pets and interactions such as taking care of pets are linked with lowering of stress reactions.

In addition, Mr. Taneichi said this result was actually a surprise to him. He said he initially had a skeptical frame of mind when he studied the correlation of health and having a pet. He seems to have thought that the correlation merely comes from subjective judgment of pet owners and or their illusions. "However, as a result of this research analysis, my doubts were nullified," he concluded.

Commenting on this research, Prof. Mori said: "It was quite interesting, and I was able to understand it very well. I hope you will further develop this kind of approach."

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