Letter from CAIRC
October 2001 Vol.5 No.5

The 9th International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions
September Event Held in Rio under the Theme
“People and Animals: A Global Perspective for the 21st Century”

“Rio Declaration” Highlights the Role of Animals in Schools
Conference a Success Despite Effects of Terrorist Attack on U.S.

Exciting new developments in the study of human-animal interactions were presented at the 9th International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions, which got under way September 13, in Rio de Janeiro, and continued through the 15th in this city of 6 million, Brazil’s second-largest urban center. The IAHAIO (International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations) is the host of the conference, which has been co-sponsored by the World Health Organization since the last 8th international conference.

Nearly 400 participants from 40 countries gathered in Rio for the conference, which was carried out despite the worldwide turmoil resulting from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Almost 100 of those who planned to come from the United States to Rio, or from elsewhere by way of the United States in order to participate, were unable to do so because of the temporary disruption of commercial flights entering and leaving the United States.

A moment of silence in commemoration of the attack victims was observed at the start of the conference, which was carried through to a successful conclusion despite numerous unscheduled changes in the program, such as the reading of the plenary talks and several research papers by representatives of those unable to attend.

The IAHAIO marked the conference by issuing the Rio Declaration on Pets in Schools, which set out guidelines regarding the keeping of pets and attachment with companion animals at schools. The increasing frequency and viciousness of youth crime has developed into a serious problem, highlighting the need for education consistent with the aim of nurturing the heart as well as the mind. Animal-Assisted Education (AAE) is one method consistent with this approach, which has been attracting attention lately. One crucial aspect of AAE is the necessity of handling the animal for intervention safely and in a manner that is appropriate from an animal welfare standpoint. IAHAIO has thus compiled a set of AAE guidelines to help ensure an appropriate, consistent approach (included at the end of this issue of the newsletter).

The Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC) is already an affiliate member of IAHAIO, and during this year's conference, it was joined by the Japan Service Dog Resource Academy (JSDRA) and the Society for the Study of Human Animal Relations (HARS), both of which applied for and were granted IAHAIO affiliate membership status. With the new additions, there are now three affiliate member groups from Japan, in addition to the Japan Animal Hospital Association (JAHA), which is the national member.

Rio Declaration Heightens Awareness of AAE
Animal-Assisted Education Boosts Children’s Autonomy, Helps Stabilize Classrooms

In keeping with its theme, “People and Animals: A Global Perspective for the 21st Century,” the three-day Rio conference has provided opportunities for a wide range of presentations, discussions and exchanges of opinion on the link between people and animals, and its relationship to topics such as rehabilitation and education.

Although the conference was to begin with the presentation of a plenary talk by Alan Beck, an internationally recognized authority from Perdue University in the United States, Dr. Beck was unable to attend because of the recent terrorist attack on that country and the text of his talk was read by the IAHAIO president Dennis Turner. The presentation, titled “Companion Animals and People Sharing Cities Together,” served as a fitting embodiment of the aims of the convention as a whole. In it, Dr. Beck noted that “people and animals can enjoy cities together if people choose appropriate pets, and there is planning and guidelines for responsible animal management”.

The Animal-Assisted Education mentioned above was one of the highlights at this year’s conference. A number of intriguing presentations were given on AAE, reflecting the fact that the role companion animals play in a child’s mental and physical development has come to be seen as increasingly important.

Among these presentations was a research titled “Dogs as an Aid in the Social Integration of Children,” given by Dr. Kurt Kotrschal of the University of Vienna, Austria. Taking two classes of children of ages 6-7 as the subject of their research, Dr. Kotrschal and his group introduced a dog into the educational activities of one of the classes, while the other class did not involve animals in its activities.

Both before and after the two-month experiment, children from both classes were psychometrically tested, and during this period, they were videotaped for one hour three times per week. As noted in the presentation, the result was that ability for independent judgment grew stronger among children in the experimental class, as did higher degree of field independence compared to the control group. Aggressive behavior decreased, and the number of students who tried to mediate in quarrels increased in number showing a marked improvement in the social climate in the class.

Another noteworthy presentation titled “A Survey on Keeping Animals in Japanese Kindergartens: Educational Benefits and Risks” was given by Ms. Yuki Koba, a student in the Ph.D. program at Hiroshima University, and a recipient of a 1999 CAIRC scholarship. Ms. Koba reported on the current state of the keeping of pets at kindergartens, levels of awareness among the kindergartens that do so, the significance of the practice and issues that arise.

“More than 80% of the respondents reported educational benefit from keeping animals. Those were supporting social and emotional development of children, illustrating the dignity of life, providing opportunities to interact with animals, and teaching biological knowledge”, noted Ms. Koba. She also pointed out “some problems related to keeping animals were described. These included lack of knowledge for daily care, breeding and hygienic management of animals, and allergic reaction of children to animals.” She stressed the need for pet ownership manuals that could help alleviate this situation.

The Relationship Between Animals and the Elderly Human and Animal Health
Intriguing Presentation and Spirited Exchange of Views Deepen Interaction

A great many of the presentations at this year’s conference were in the field of the relationships between companion animals and the elderly. One such presentation was titled “Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) as an Integral Part of Physiotherapy (PT) Sessions in a Nursing Home,” delivered by Dr. Debra Buttram, who is affiliated with AIUCA, an Italian service dog organization. One of the main obstacles in the execution of rehabilitative physiotherapy activities for residents in a nursing home is the tendency of the residents to refuse to undergo rehabilitation exercises.

This report takes such situations into account, and explores the potential for execution of enjoyable exercises involving dogs. In fact, a refusal to participate in physical therapy is a major reason why the elderly become unable to live their day-to-day lives independently. While avoiding long, difficult, and often painful physical therapy sessions, many nursing home residents become unable to perform the most fundamental hand and foot movements. In the worst cases, residents can become bedridden as a result.

This research project is based on a program in which AAT was introduced into the physical therapy sessions of seven residents who had been refusing to undergo in normal rehabilitation exercises. The results were that during the two-year period from 1999 to 2001, residents experienced an improved movement and sensitivity of paralyzed limbs, and relaxed muscular tone. It was also noted that the residents appeared to be enjoying their participation in the rehabilitation exercises, and had become able to communicate more comfortably than before.

Another research project regarding the health of the elderly, titled “The Relationship between Keeping a Companion Animal, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living and Use of Antihypertensive Drugs: A Study of Japanese Elderly Living at Home” was presented by Dr. Tomoko Saito, a lecturer at College of Medical Technology and Nursing, University of Tsukuba, Japan, and a recipient of the 1998 CAIRC scholarship.

This project explored the role of companion animals in the health of the elderly. The results indicated that to the extent that subjects cared for pets, the impediments to the IADL of subjects were lessened. It was reported that subjects who replied that they considered their pets to be “close companions” tended to have the most limited impediments to IADL.

Positive Effects for Patients Recovering from Treatment
Attachment with Animals Eases Social Isolation, Enhances Recovery of Breast Cancer Patients

Of particular note were research projects that indicated a link between health and attachment with animals. Dr. James Lynch, a pioneer and visionary in the field of mind/body/interpersonal health, offered a plenary talk titled “Explaining the Powerful Health Benefits of Animal Companionship,” which was read by Dr. John Bradshaw of the University of Southampton, UK. In this presentation, Dr. Lynch noted the need for communication in light of research results indicating that the lack of social support, increased isolation and human loneliness are major contributors to an increased risk of morbidity and premature mortality.

Dr. Lynch notes that the way humans interact with the their living environment, including with animal companions, “can occur within a context that fosters either an increased state of chronic fight/flight reactivity (The Physiology of Exclusion)- one that fuels an increased sense of isolation, alienation and loneliness and ultimately premature death-, or within a context that fosters an enhanced state of relaxation, (The Physiology of Inclusion)- a bodily state of chronic lowered autonomic arousal and increased longevity”.

A research group headed by Dr. June McNicholas of the University of Warwick, UK, reported on the role of companion animals in providing social support for patients recovering from breast cancer (“The Role of Pets in the Support Networks of People Recovering from Breast Cancer”). Dr. McNicholas recruited 70 women from five breast cancer support groups. A questionnaire including 27 items was completed to measure sources of support they receive with regard to areas such as treatment and lifestyle.

The results of the survey indicated that 51% of the subjects were pet owners, and that 88% of these replied that their pets provided social support in at least one question item. Those who indicated that their pets provided such support for more than 10 items amounted to 43% of the pet owners, while there were indication of more than 20 items of support. In many such cases, human relationships can be difficult to turn to for comfort because for instance the perceived need to appear brave in the face of an uncertain future, which can be sources of stress. In this respect, people are able to express their true feelings in interaction with pets, which can relieve stress. “Pets can provide valuable support during adjustment and coping with breast cancer”, Dr. McNicholas said.

In another plenary talk titled “Changing Cultural Perspectives to Include Service Animals in the 21st Century: Lesson from Japan”, Dr. Tomoko Takayanagi, a managing director of the Japanese Service Dog Resource Academy (JSDRA), suggested changes in Japan with respect to service dogs. This report, presented for Dr. Takayanagi by Ms. Keiko Yamazaki, an executive board member of the Academy, noted the current state of the service dogs in Japan, and the ongoing activities in creating an environment for service dogs to work in Japan.

Dr. Takayanagi noted that preparation began in June for work on a law regarding access to service dogs by the parliamentarians’ group, remarking that “this law will be the first law in Japan and even in the world to protect the access of three types of service dog users with a definite certification system and regulating the responsibilities of training”. The number of service dogs in Japan is not great. But there is a possibility that as a more conducive environment is established, their numbers will increase, assisting with the mobility needs of a great many people.

Dr. Yuji Mori, professor of Veterinary Ethology, Veterinary Medical Science/Animal Resource Science, the University of Tokyo, who attended the Rio conference, made the following remarks.

“I was able to expose myself to many very interesting research reports. For example, when I heard the plenary talk by Dr. Carlos Drews of Costa Rica, I was strongly impressed by the fact that such an excellent researcher in this field has come out of Latin America. I believe that as this subject matter comes to be recognized in countries throughout the world as a field of scientific endeavor, people from an increasingly diverse range of backgrounds will be coming together to present their research and exchange information, and this conference will therefore develop into an ever more meaningful event."

At the same time, viewing reports from around the world makes it clear that some concern surrounds the fact that Japanese medical practice lags somewhat behind the rest of the world in the use of techniques such as Animal-Assisted Therapy. According to Dr. Mitsuaki Ohta, professor of Animal and Human Bonds, School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, “only a very few Japanese medical institutions have introduced AAT, and it may be some time before AAT is accepted by the Japanese medical community.

“In order for this field to establish itself in Japan, it will be necessary for the introduction of Animal-Assisted Activity (AAA) to become more widespread so that a track record of results can be built up. I'm not sure how long that might take, but once it becomes widely realized that these activities produce results, then I think they will be widely adopted in the medical field. Therefore, what we need to do now is to develop a base of human resources with correct knowledge of the techniques involved, and to create the venues in which they can be effective.”

As a first step toward that goal, Dr. Ohta plans to establish an AAT/AAA education and training program for graduate students and adult university students beginning in April 2002 at Azabu University. With five eminent foreign lecturers including Dr. Dennis Turner and Ms. Susan Duncan being invited, the program will be carried out on a world-class level.

As at the Prague Conference held in 1998, CAIRC conducted a booth display at this year’s conference. In addition to introducing CAIRC’s activities, the display also presented the issue involved in keeping pets in collective housing, as well as the current pet keeping situation in Japan. The booth provided a venue for an active exchange of information with attendees from diverse countries. We were able to learn a great deal about the situation people from each of these countries face, and to share with them the situation in Japan, and CAIRC’s approach to these subjects.

It is also fair to say that there were many reports from Japanese researchers at this year’s conference. The fact that two of the research projects presented at this year’s conference were recipients of the annual CAIRC scholarship designed to encourage budding researchers in this field was an especially gratifying result for us.

This conference has come to play an increasingly crucial role in providing a venue for researchers to present the results of their work, in fostering the development of this field, and thus in helping humans to coexist with animals. And this year’s event clearly constituted a major step forward for human-animal relationship studies in Japan.


The IAHAIO Rio Declaration on
Pets in Schools

Given the strong evidence that has accumulated in recent years demonstrating the value, to children and juveniles, of social relationships with companion animals it is important that children be taught proper and safe behaviour towards those animals and the correct care, handling and treatment of the various companion animal species.

Realising that companion animals in school curricula encourage the moral, spiritual and personal development of each child, bring social benefits to the school community and enhance opportunities for learning in many different areas of the school curriculum, IAHAIO members have adopted fundamental guidelines on pets in schools at their General Assembly, held in Rio de Janeiro in September 2001.

IAHAIO urges all school authorities and teachers, as well as all persons and organisations involved in pet programmes for schools, to consider and abide by the following guidelines.

1. Programmes about companion animals should, at some point, allow personal contact with such animals in the classroom setting. Depending on school regulations and facilities, these animals will:
a)   be kept, under suitable conditions, on the premises, or
b)   be brought to school by the teacher, or
c)   come to visit, in the context of a visiting programme, together with their owners, or
d)   accompany, as a service dog, a child with special needs.

2. Any programme involving personal contact between children and companion animals must ensure:
a)   that the animals involved are
    safe (specially selected and/or trained),
    healthy (as attested by a veterinarian),
    prepared for the school environment (e.g. socialized to children, adjusted to travel in the case of visiting animals),
    properly housed (either in the classroom or while at home), and
    always under supervision of a knowledgeable adult (either the teacher or the owner),
b)   that safety, health and feelings of each child in the class are respected.

3. Prior to the acquisition of classroom animals or visitation of the class by programme personnel with companion animals that meet the above criteria, both school authorities and parents must be informed and convinced of the value of such encounters.

4. Precise learning objectives must be defined and should include:
a)   enhancement of knowledge and learning motivation in various areas of the school curriculum
b)   encouragement of respect and of a sense of responsibility for other life forms
c)   consideration of each child’s expressive potential and involvement.

5. The safety and well-being of the animals involved must be guaranteed at all times.