Blog posts tagged with ‘social capital’

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Pets - A Neighborhood's Best Friend

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New Australian research suggests pets are a valuable and positive feature of community and neighbourhood life. The University of Western Australia study was sponsored by the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and was led by Dr Lisa Wood, School of Population and Global Health.

 

Fast Facts

The latest study1 by the University of Western Australia found:

  • Over 60% of dog owners reported they got to know their neighbour through their pet
  • For owners of pets other than dogs almost a third said they got to know neighbours through their pet
  • Pets facilitated first meeting and conversations between neighbours
  • Dog walkers were more likely to have a higher social capital score than dog owners who did not walk their dog

The release of the research coincided with a speech from high profile veterinarian Dr Chris Brown who urged local councils to be more pet-friendly in a major speech at the National General Assembly of Local Government.

 

 

New Australian research suggests pets are a valuable and positive feature of community and neighbourhood life. The University of Western Australia study was sponsored by the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and was led by Dr Lisa Wood, School of Population and Global Health.

Fast Facts

The latest study1 by the University of Western Australia found:

  •          Over 60% of dog owners reported they got to know their neighbour through their pet
  •          For owners of pets other than dogs almost a third said they got to know neighbours through their pet
  •          Pets facilitated first meeting and conversations between neighbours
  •          Dog walkers were more likely to have a higher social capital score than dog owners who did not walk their dog

Drawing from a sample of more than 2,500 pet and non-pet owners across three U.S. cities (San Diego, Portland and Nashville) and one Australian city (Perth) the research reveals owning a pet, irrespective of the type of animal it is, is linked to increased perceptions of trust in the community and increased social capital (formation of strong networks and positive relationships between people).

 UWA lead researcher Dr Lisa Wood said the notion that pets can help to facilitate the ‘glue’ that holds communities together went far beyond the role of pets as a conversation starter or icebreaker.

 “What we are interested in is the extent to which pets contribute to the social fabric of a community by forging connections and trust between people,” Dr Wood said.

 “In our increasingly busy and technology dominated lives, people can often feel disconnected from their local community, and this can impact negatively on mental health.  But pets are a natural antidote to this, and can help strengthen the social fabric of our neighbourhoods.”  

 In the study, the researchers measured differences in the level of social capital between pet and non-pet owners. Social capital was measured with questions about trust in others, whether people are willing to help one another or exchange favours, community involvement, and whether or not they had gotten to know people in their community.    

 “We found people who owned a pet had higher social capital than non-pet owners in all the cities studied, and this was not just limited to people who owned a dog, or who walked their dog in the neighbourhood,” Dr Wood.

 Dr Wood said overall, 60 per cent of those surveyed who owned a dog got to know their neighbours better and 25 per cent of those who owned another type of pet  got to know their neighbours better.  “Our findings suggest that even incidental social interactions can contribute to enhanced social capital, as people are then less likely to feel that they live amongst total strangers,” Dr Wood said.

 The importance of pet ownership in bringing communities together and increasing perceptions of trust has important implications for town planners, local government and housing bodies.

 “In Australia, pets have traditionally been more likely owned by people living in detached housing with backyards, with many apartments and retirement villages still defaulting to a ‘no pets’policy,” Dr Wood said.

 “By contrast, in cities in Europe and the U.S. with a longer history of higher density apartment style living pets are more readily accepted in residences of this type.”

The release of the research coincided with a speech from high profile veterinarian Dr Chris Brown who urged local councils to be more pet-friendly in a major speech at the National General Assembly of Local Government.

 

 

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