|CAIRC Holds Research Presentations for the 7th CAIRC Scholarship Program for Advancing the Study of Relationships between Humans and Companion Animals
-Research topics reflecting urban life and modern society arouse the interest of the audience-
|Four recipients of CAIRC scholarship present findings of their studies
Since 1998, the Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC) has conducted the CAIRC Scholarship Program for advancing the study of human-companion animal relationships. Four scholarship recipients reported the results of their studies in a special presentation meeting. The following is a report on the meeting.
On October 6, the seventh CAIRC scholarship research presentation meeting was held at the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Besides the four presenters ? Satoshi Fukano, Kyoko Suzuki, Takuya Yoshida and Taro Yoshida ? selection committee members Professor Mitsuaki Ohta of Azabu University and Professor Yuji Mori of the University of Tokyo also attended the meeting along with CAIRC Chairman and University of Tokyo Professor Emeritus Yoichi Shoda.
In his opening address, Chairman Dr. Shoda lauded the four awardees for their very "unique" studies. "The four presenters have planned and conducted very unique studies. They selected a variety of topics, with some reflecting the current state of society, including possible roles of ponies as a public companion animal in urban circumstances, the effects of keeping dogs and cats on corporate workers' stress, public nuisances caused by dogs and a new approach to animal assisted education at elementary school. The next International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions, the leading international conference in this field of study organized every three years by the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), of which CAIRC is an affiliate member, is slated to take place in Tokyo in the autumn of 2007. I hope Japanese researchers will expand and advance their studies and present their findings at the meeting in Tokyo, which will be the first IAHAIO conference held in Asia."
The first "Animal Assisted Education" project in Japan created the audience's interest because of the approach's "effectiveness" for building better human relationships
In the presentation meeting, each presenter answered many questions from the audience. In particular, the presentation on "Approaches to the Animal (dog) Assisted Education at Elementary School" by Taro Yoshida, an elementary school teacher, aroused great interest among the participants because it was the first full-fledged experiment of this kind in Japan. His presentation was followed by active exchanges of views about efforts to spread this approach among Japanese elementary schools.
Great potential of ponies to serve as public companion animals is shown
The Influence on Local Communities of Contact with Ponies in Urban Spaces
- A Consideration of the Significance and Role of Parks that Feature Ponies -
Manager and instructor, Pony Department, Tokyo Riding Club
Shibuya Ward's Yoyogi Pony Park was developed in 2003 as a facility that offers opportunities to have contacts with ponies under urban circumstances. Tokyo Riding Club, for which Fukano works, manages and operates the park for the Shibuya municipal government. With the aim of identifying the benefits of contacts with ponies in an urban environment and designing a community-oriented facility that offers opportunities to have contacts with ponies, Fukano conducted four kinds of surveys: (1) a survey of park visitors, (2) a survey of pictures painted by children visiting the park, (3) a survey of organizations using the park and (4) a survey of the operators of other pony facilities.
The survey of park visitors found that 75% of them are residents of Shibuya or neighboring wards. Many of them visit the park as a regular activity in their daily life rather than as a special occasion for sightseeing or recreation. So a high ratio of the respondents had visited the park repeatedly. Contacts with ponies were familiar experience for many respondents. The ratio of the respondents who kept a pet at their houses was lower than the national average ratio of households that kept a dog. That suggests that ponies in such a park could serve as a sort of public companion animals for urban households that cannot keep a pet due to housing and other reasons.
The survey of pictures painted by children who were visiting the park was conducted twice. There were clear differences between the paintings examined in the first survey and those in the second, which was conducted six months later when more children were visiting the park for the second or more time. In the first survey, many children described themselves riding on a pony, while in the second survey, more children described themselves giving carrots to a pony or brushing one. Many pictures in the second survey also showed the hair colors and patterns of individual ponies. Fukano points out some children give carrots to their favorite ponies every day. "Ponies begin to serve as something like companion animals as children have more contacts with them," Fukano reported.
While ponies show the potential to serve as public companion animals, a survey of the operators of other pony facilities showed ponies behaved improperly at a relatively high ratio. Such behavior, it was found, was often induced by visitors' acts that caused strong stress to the animals, such as making a lot of noise or going behind the ponies. The findings highlighted the need to give visitors opportunities to learn about the habits of ponies before actual contacts.
Since ponies are large animals, it is possible to arrange feeding, stable cleaning and other activities to take care of ponies for group programs. Fukano maintains that ponies allow various types of enrichment programs based on interaction with them. The survey of 17 education institutions using the Yoyogi Pony Park for extracurricular and other activities found that 15 of them thought contacts with ponies were beneficial. Many of them called for measures to make it easier for children with disabilities to enjoy contacts with ponies. Currently, individual facilities make efforts independently to improve accessibility for disabled children. Fukano said these facilities should try to improve their skills through cooperation among them and build networks with experts in the fields of medicine, education and psychology.
Commenting on Fukano's report, Professor Ohta of Azabu University said, "orses are attracting international attention as particularly useful for animal-assisted therapy and activity since using them often produces great benefits." "From this point of view, the Pony Park's efforts to improve accessibility for disabled people would be quite meaningful," Ohta said.
After presenting his findings, Fukano said he had been aware that while the main purpose of most first-time visitors was riding, repeaters became more interested in feeding and brushing. "I find it quite satisfactory that my study has demonstrated such tendency clearly in objective data like user surveys and children's paintings. Most existing pony facilities focus on riding, but my study points to the importance of offering a wide range of experiences."
Can keeping cats or dogs help ease corporate workers' stress?
- Effects of Companion Animals on Depression or Job Stress among Industrial Workers -
PhD student, Department of Health Education, Graduate School of Health Sciences, Tokyo Medical and Dental University
Japan's economic malaise in recent years has had considerable physical and psychological effects on corporate employees. For instance, suicide is the most or second most common cause of death in all age groups of Japanese from the 20's through 50's. The number of patients suffering from mental diseases like depression and neurosis is growing steadily year after year. Among the people in their 20's or 30's, the ratio of patients treated for mental illness is far higher than that of patients treated for physical diseases. Mental care of workers is now an important issue for the effort to prevent suicides.
When Suzuki, who is conducting research on various topics related to occupational health, discovered that there are many corporate employees who try to ease their stress by talking to their dogs as soon as they get home, she thought raising a companion animal might help workers cope with their stress.
In fact, it has been reported that having a companion animal helps elder people maintain their health and maintain or raise the level of their social activities, and that people owning a companion animal show greater ability to adapt to stress. It has also been reported that among men nursing family members suffering from Alzheimer's and women younger than 40, those who keep a companion animal show less tendency toward depression than those who don't.
So Suzuki assumed that keeping a companion animal would also be beneficial for workers, improving their job-related stress and depression. On this assumption, she conducted a survey of some 1,300 employees of a precision instrument maker on the correlation between keeping a companion animal (dog or cat) and occupational stress and depression.
The survey results were analyzed from six perspectives: (1) basic attributes (age, sex, occupation), (2) lifestyle habits, (3) ideas on health, (4) screening test for depression, (5) occupation stress measures and (6) companion animal ownership. One statistically significant fact found by the survey is that the number of people who regularly exercise is greater among those who keep a companion animal than among those who don't. That indicates keeping a companion animal, whether a dog or a cat, tends to encourage exercise including walking. Since regular exercise helps prevent lifestyle diseases and has refreshing effects, Suzuki reasons, the finding suggests keeping a companion animal may help prevent depression indirectly.
No significant difference, however, was found between people who own a companion animal and those who don't with regard to tendency toward depression. "While social support by their superiors and colleagues has been shown to help workers cope with stress, the effectiveness for stress coping has been proved for nothing else," Suzuki says. "I wanted to demonstrate that keeping a companion animal is the second effective approach to coping with stress, but unfortunately the survey didn't show that." "Previous studies have indicated manufacturing workers are more likely to show a tendency toward depression. In my survey, manufacturing workers accounted for 40% of all the respondents, a higher ratio than that of any other category of workers. So we cannot rule out the possibility that there were many people among the respondents whose tendency toward depression had been somehow weakened."
After listening to Suzuki's report, Professor Ohta said, "A previous study has indicated that the positive effects of keeping a companion animal is proportional to the person's affection to the animal." "If the results are examined also from the viewpoint of the degree of affection, a deeper understanding could be gained," he suggested.
In order to study the effects of raising a companion animal on job stress again, Suzuki is considering a research project in which workers with a strong tendency toward depression are encouraged to have a companion animal to measure changes in their mental conditions caused by the animal.
A study focusing on nuisances caused by dogs as negative aspect of companion animals
A Study on the Pet Owners' Awareness of Pet-Caring Norms and Prevention of Socially Disruptive Behavior
Masters student, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Nagoya University
Takuya Yoshida, who is studying social psychology at a graduate school, examined negative effects of pet ownership by applying the viewpoint of "social nuisance," an increasingly popular topic in social psychology in recent years, to the study of the human-companion animal relationship.
"According to an opinion poll, 58% of people regard dog droppings as a nuisance," Yoshida points out. "While there are laws and local government efforts to deal with pet-related nuisances, their effectiveness is questionable. It is generally believed that this is after all a matter of the pet owners' morality. I wanted to show with data whether morality really prevents people from allowing their pets to cause nuisances," Yoshida says, explaining his motive.
Yoshida adopted three hypotheses for his study.
||People with keener awareness about pet-related nuisances are less likely to allow their pets to cause nuisances.
||People with a lower level of morality are more likely to allow their pets to cause nuisances.
||People who don't own pets feel a stronger aversion to pet-related nuisances than pet owners.
Before testing these hypotheses, Yoshida had to develop a measure of nuisances caused by pets because there was none available. First, he made a list of 24 common nuisances caused by pets using a preliminary survey and rules for pet owners posted on the Web. He then carried out factor analysis of them. The analysis classified pet nuisances into three categories: nuisances caused by pets freed from the owners' control, nuisances due to poor hygiene and training and nuisances caused by droppings. The hypotheses were examined using these three categories.
One notable finding is that the results didn't support Hypothesis 1. That means people who regard dog droppings as very annoying don't necessarily clean up after their dogs. "So it is doubtful whether a message like "eDon't leave your dog's droppings because that would cause a nuisance to others' is effective for prevention," argues Yoshida. "We need to devise a more effective message." The results, though, supported Hypothesis 3, indicating the issue of pet-related nuisances should be considered more from the viewpoint of people who don't own pets than from pet owners' viewpoint.
"The ultimate goal of my research is to find effective ways to deter people from allowing their pets to cause nuisances. But I think it is still in a basic stage. I intend to review the components of the measure of nuisances and refine the criteria by taking into consideration the social desirability bias - people's tendency to give answers they believe are socially acceptable and desirable," Yoshida says.
Commenting on Yoshida's research, Professor Mori said, "The proposals adopted during last year's IAHAIO conference, held in Glasgow, pointed out that research focusing only on the positive aspects was not objective. It is time for us to face up to the negative aspects in order to enjoy the benefits of pets. When pets are raised in a collective housing, for instance, it is important to make clear all the potential problems so that pet owners and non-owners can share understanding of the problems and work together to sort them out. From this point of view, I hope this kind of research will be expanded through steps like enlarging the size of samples."
The biggest benefit of dog-assisted education is it makes school "fun" for children.
A Trial of Animal Assisted Education at a School Using a Dog
Religious Education Director, St. Margaret's Elementary School
In fiscal 2003, Taro Yoshida introduced an animal assisted education (AAE) program using a dog into St. Margaret's Elementary School, where he is teaching. Yoshida planned and prepared for the program carefully. Before he started the program he explained the method and purposes to other members of the teaching staff as well as parents in an effort to win their support. He selected the dog breed suitable for an AAE program with the help of experts and then found a breeder that can supply an appropriate puppy. He had the puppy receive necessary socialization training and ensured appropriate hygienic management in cooperation with veterinarians. In addition, Yoshida gave school children basic knowledge about the nature of dogs and man's relations with them in his classes while working closely with the healthcare room and school counselors. He spent two years on preparations before launching the program.
Yoshida selected a female Airedale terrier, a breed often used as a police or rescue dog, as the companion animal for the program and named her "Buddy." Every morning, Buddy, kept at Yoshida's home, goes to the school with him. She attends his classes with children. She spends the first three minutes on interaction with children and then sleeps or otherwise remains quiet at a corner of the classroom for the rest of the time. "Since the children have been told by an expert that dogs hate noises they keep themselves from talking to avoid disrupting dozing Buddy," Yoshida says. "As a result, children show greater concentration during classes."
When Yoshida is not teaching a class, Buddy spends time in her own room created at a corner of the teachers' office. During breaks between classes, children come to Buddy's room and enjoy relaxing interaction with her. Buddy takes part in various school events, including marching in athletic meetings, evacuation drills, school excursions and the taking of commemorative photographs during graduation ceremonies. Buddy's attendance makes children more eager about participating in these events. When children visit local welfare facilities for elder people for volunteer work as part of a school program, Buddy accompanies them and helps their interactions with the elders.
The biggest of the benefits that have been gained from the program is that Buddy's presence makes school more enjoyable for children, according to Yoshida. "Buddy is serving as an agent that helps make communications smoother and catalyzes the establishment of better human relations," he observes.
Instead of demonstrating the effects of the AAE program with data, Yoshida presented records of the program, using pictures and video. "I was greatly impressed by the pictures and video," commented Professor Mori of the University of Tokyo. "The support provided by veterinarians and other local experts is also great." "There will probably be various obstacles to the effort to spread Yoshida's approach to other schools, but I hope this success will promote its widespread use in this country," Mori added.
When a school adopts an AAE program, it won't be enough just to have a dog inside the compound, Yoshida argues. What is crucial, Yoshida says, is to ensure that the dog can serve as an agent for communication safely and effectively. That requires appointing a single person to take care of the animal as a leader. Preparations for such a program should include measures to deal with children allergic to animals and prevent bites as well as arrangements to cover the cost of keeping the dog. These measures must be planned carefully while securing the support by the people involved. Since he couldn't find any previous example of AAE to refer to, Yoshida had to go through constant trial and error. From now on, however, his experience will offer a good example for people who want to adopt this approach.