Discussion: How Have Pets Helped Make Your Community Better?

SnoopyA recently published study in Australia found that pets help connect people within communities:

“We found that people who had a pet were more likely, than those who didn’t own a pet, to get to know people in their neighbourhood that they didn’t know before,” says [Associate Professor Lisa Wood from the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health], adding that people from all walks of life were brought together.

“The great thing about pets is they are a really great leveller.”

And it went beyond pets breaking the ice and leading to a simple wave or a chat.

“Having a pet can actually lead to more meaningful relationships between people,” says Wood.

She and colleagues found 42 per cent of pet owners received practical or emotional support from others they had met through their pets.

And a more tightly knit community benefits everyone:

If you’ve got a street where dog owners help each other, they may be more likely to keep an eye on others in the street as well, whether they own pets or not, says Wood.

“There seems to be a ripple effect.”

What are your experiences?  Have you received support from someone in your community whom you met via a pet?  Do you perceive a ripple effect within your community stemming from relationships established via pets?  What other community benefits have you observed which you believe originated from the presence of pets?  Does your local shelter maintain a strong presence in the community in order to protect and promote animal welfare and the subsequent benefits to people?

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6 Comments

  1. Lisa B

     /  May 20, 2015

    I am always walking four dogs around my neighborhood, so several years ago my neighborhood watch group gave me a cute little framed certificate that said “Leader of The Pack Award,” for “taking care of man’s best friend while looking out for the neighborhood.” I didn’t realize they even knew my name, but I guess “that woman with all the dogs” got people’s attention! (I’d post a photo of the award if I could … it’s really sweet.)

    Reply
  2. db

     /  May 20, 2015

    On a very different track, I take care of a few feral cats. Three years ago one of them was hit by a car over July 4th right in front of my house. He survived and ran off. I had several neighbors who helped me search for him that night. The next day I went house to house for a two block area and had neighbors I’d never met, open sheds, look under decks, etc for him. I had several people watching for him, too. I was pleasantly surprised at how concerned so many people were (and had the chance to do some educating about “feral” cats, too). He did come back for dinner one night in September and has been a regular until about 2 months ago. The last time I saw him he looked pretty rough and I fear he has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

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  3. I am actually glad for neighbors who allow their cats outdoors for a few hours daily. I am in the neighborhood of large trees, lots of squirrels, chipmunks,mice, and birds. Despite the claims that cats kill millions of birds, my observation for 20 years has been that they kill mice, chipmunks, and young rabbits daily–but birds? Despite my 3 bird feeders, only one dead bird in 20 years.Thanks to all cats who keep our rodent population down!

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    • Karen F

       /  May 20, 2015

      I agree. We’re in a neighborhood I would describe the same way. In our case, there’s actually little contact between neighbors (sadly), but there are a number of folks who allow their cats outside during the day, and I think warmly of both owners and cats. Partly because of the entertainment value: one day I actually saw the next-door neighbor’s cat lying down, chilling, on our back lawn, surrounded by cavorting squirrels and chattering Steller’s Jays.

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  4. vida

     /  May 20, 2015

    We had situation in our area, someone renting and when they left they dumped their cats. Several of us started leaving food and water out, having conversations about it, we are in a semi rural area and mostly we all keep to ourselves. But we started working together to keep the cats fed and safe, they all ended up with neighborhood families and it’s really gotten us speaking more, watching out for each other more. I guess that’s not a huge thing but it does make life nicer for animals and humans.

    Reply
  5. Eucritta

     /  May 21, 2015

    Here’s a link to the original paper on PLOS ONE:
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0122085

    Most of the neighbors we’ve become acquainted with, it’s been due to pets. In a lot of cases pets turn out to be one of the very few interests we have in common, which is one of the things I especially value about pets as ‘social lubricant.’

    Reply

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