Homelessness and dog ownership: an investigation into animal empathy, attachment, crime, drug use, health and public opinion

Authors: Taylor, Heidi; Williams, Pauline; Gray, David

Source: Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 1 December 2004, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 353-368(16)


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A sample of 51 homeless people in Cambridge, UK completed a questionnaire featuring adapted Animal Empathy and Companion Animal Bonding Scales. Concepts of crime, drug use, and health matters amongst the homeless, both dog owning and non-dog owning, were investigated, as well. Ninety members of the general public completed a similar questionnaire which sought their opinions on homeless people who own dogs. There was a highly significant difference (p < 0.01) between the homeless and the securely housed on their animal empathy and attachment scores, with the homeless sample displaying higher values. Gender and dog ownership status had no effect on these scores. A near significant result (U = 2, n1 = 13, n2 = 58, p = 0.06) was revealed for animal empathy scores of those who gave money to dog-owning homeless people and those who gave to non-dog owning homeless people. Of the public respondents, women were significantly more likely to show concern for a homeless person's dog's welfare than men (X2(1) = 8.5, p < 0.01), and of the homeless respondents, non-dog owners were significantly more likely than dog owners to believe that having a dog helped initiate conversations with the public (X2(1) = 4.0, p < 0.05). Highly significant differences (U = 10, n1 = 31, n2 = 20, p < 0.01) were found for medical care use between the dog-owning and non-dog owning homeless, and health scores showed a reversed trend compared to that expected for the general population, with dog owners scoring lower than non-dog owners.


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/089279304785643230

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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