|The 9th International Conference on Human-Animal
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,
Brazils 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 Childrens Autonomy, Helps Stabilize
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
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 years conference. A number of intriguing presentations
were given on AAE, reflecting the fact that the role companion animals
play in a childs 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
The Relationship Between Animals and the Elderly
Human and Animal
Intriguing Presentation and Spirited Exchange of Views Deepen Interaction
A great many of the presentations at this years 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
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
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 years conference. In addition to introducing
CAIRCs 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 CAIRCs approach to these subjects.
It is also fair to say that there were many reports from Japanese
researchers at this years conference. The fact that two of the
research projects presented at this years 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 years event clearly constituted a major
step forward for human-animal relationship studies in Japan.