To read this content please select one of the options below:

Pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion

Sue Holttum (Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, Tunbridge Wells, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 9 April 2018




Humans have close relationships with animals for companionship and in working roles. The purpose of this paper is to discuss recent papers on pets and dog-assisted interventions, and relates their findings to social inclusion.


A search was carried out for recent papers on pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion/exclusion.


One paper discusses theories (often lacking in studies of animal-assisted therapy) of why animals may be good for human health and development. A recent review shows evidence that family pet ownership may aid children’s well-being, learning and social development, but too few studies have followed children over time in pet and non-pet households. Studies of dog-assisted interventions show stress-reduction, which in turn may explain why therapy for mental health in young people and adults was more effective with a dog than without. Social inclusion is hinted at but not measured directly, yet dog-assisted therapy might be helpful in this regard.


All the papers discussed in detail here represent up-to-date understanding in this area of knowledge. Benefits of human-animal bonds, especially with dogs, appear to be well-supported by biological as well as observational and self-report evidence. More research is needed on how much these attachments may assist social relating and relationships with other people, and social inclusion.



Holttum, S. (2018), "Pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 65-71.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles