Research

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The Affinity Foundation Chair of Animals and Health

The purpose of the Affinity Foundation Chair of Animals and Health at the Autonomous University of Barcelona is to research about the relationships established between people and pets.

The Affinity Foundation Chair of Animals and Health is promoted jointly by the Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the Affinity Foundation, and the Mar Health Park in Barcelona.

So far, the Chair’s research has generated 16 publications in scientific magazines, 3 chapters in technical books, 2 doctoral theses, and over 30 conferences at international congresses, seminars, and symposiums.

Since its creation, the Chair has organised 3 international congresses in Barcelona: Canine Science Forum and ADI (Assistance Dogs International) in 2012 and the annual ISAZ congress in 2014 (International Society for Anthrozoology).

From 2015 to 2018, in collaboration with the Barcelona City Council, the Chair organised a post-graduate program in Anthrozoology especially designed for people who work in animal protection organisations.

Areas of knowledge

  • Nature of the bond between people and pets.
  • The benefits of living with animals for health and quality of life.
  • The therapeutic value of animals for people.

Publicaciones

Since 2013 the Affinity Foundation Observatory has been dedicated to spreading scientific knowledge about the bond between people and pets.

The characteristics of the human-animal bond may be influenced by both owner-related and dog-related factors. A study was designed to explore the existence of different dog ownership patterns and their related factors. We created an on line questionnaire that included demographic questions about the dog and the owner, a Spanish version of the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS) and a validated measure of satisfaction with life (Cantril’s ladder). We collected 1140 valid responses from adult dog owners, who were recruited using the client databases of Spanish veterinary practices...

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Characteristics of the human-animal bond can be influenced by both owner-related and pet-related factors, which likely differ between species. Three studies adapted the Monash Dog-Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS) to permit assessment of human-cat interactions as perceived by the cat’s owner. In Study 1293 female cat owners completed a modified version of the MDORS, where ‘dog’ was replaced with ‘cat’ for all items...

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of the Spanish confinement for the control of the COVID-19 pandemic on the behavior of pet cats and dogs, and the support that pets provided to their owners. We found that the quality of life of owners was strongly influenced by the lifestyle and emotional effects of the confinement, and that pets provided them with substantial support to mitigate those effects. However, pets showed signs of behavioral change that were consistent with stress, with dogs that had pre-existing behavioral problems being the most affected.

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Dogs are a source of companionship and comfort for their owners, but the degree to which this might translate into real emotional and social support has not been quantified. Emotional and social support are essential to help people to get through personal crises such as bereavement...

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In this paper we wanted to estimate the incidence of abandonment, as well as the general profile of dogs and cats entering animal shelters in our country. Also, we wanted to test the impact of identification on the recovery of dogs that had entered animal shelters. More than 100,000 dogs and more than 30,000 cats enter animal shelters annually in Spain. We observed a seasonal effect in the number of admissions in cats. A considerable percentage remained at the shelter or was euthanized. We found that identification of dogs with a microchip increased by 3-fold the likelihood of them being returned to the owner.

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Understanding the psychological correlates of attitudes toward pet relinquishment and actual pet relinquishment is essential to inform interventions, and assess their impact. In this study, we developed new scales to measure attitudes toward pet relinquishment, motives for pet relinquishment, and general trust in pets. With these scales, we showed that attitudes of lack of obligation toward pet relinquishment were more likely in older people, those who perceived their pet as a burden, and those with lower general trust in pets. In addition, we found that attitudes of pragmatism toward pet relinquishment were more likely in men, those who were the main pet caretaker, those who perceived their pet as a burden, those with higher motives for pet relinquishment, and those with lower general trust in pets. Moreover, we found that past pet relinquishment behavior was more likely among people with attitudes of pragmatism toward pet relinquishment. Broadly, these findings advance our knowledge of pet relinquishment, and are likely to inform intervention campaigns to prevent it.

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Currently, one of the main objectives of human–animal interaction research is to demonstrate the benefits of animal assisted therapy (AAT) for specific profiles of patients or participants. The aim of this study is to assess the effect of an AAT program as an adjunct to a conventional 6–month psychosocial rehabilitation program for people with schizophrenia. Our hypothesis is that the inclusion of AAT into psychosocial rehabilitation would contribute positively to the impact of the overall program on symptomology and quality of life, and that AAT would be a positive experience for patients. To test these hypotheses, we compared pre–program with post–program scores for the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and the EuroQoL-5 dimensions questionnaire (EuroQol-5D), pre–session with post–session salivary cortisol and alpha–amylase for the last four AAT sessions, and adherence rates between different elements of the program. We conducted a randomized, controlled study in a psychiatric care center in Spain. Twenty–two institutionalized patients with chronic schizophrenia completed the 6–month rehabilitation program, which included individual psychotherapy, group therapy, a functional program (intended to improve daily functioning), a community program (intended to facilitate community reintegration) and a family program. Each member of the control group (n = 8) participated in one activity from a range of therapeutic activities that were part of the functional program. In place of this functional program activity, the AAT–treatment group (n = 14) participated in twice–weekly 1–h sessions of AAT. All participants received the same weekly total number of hours of rehabilitation. At the end of the program, both groups (control and AAT–treatment) showed significant improvements in positive and overall symptomatology, as measured with PANSS, but only the AAT–treatment group showed a significant improvement in negative symptomatology. Adherence to the AAT–treatment was significantly higher than overall adherence to the control group’s functional rehabilitation activities. Cortisol level was significantly reduced after participating in an AAT session, which could indicate that interaction with the therapy dogs reduced stress. In conclusion, the results of this small–scale RCT suggest that AAT could be considered a useful adjunct to conventional psychosocial rehabilitation for people with schizophrenia.

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Team

The purpose of the Affinity Foundation Chair of Animals and Health at the Autonomous University of Barcelona is to research about the relationships established between people and pets.

Management

  • Dr. Jaume Fatjó
    Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
    Associate professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine of the UAB.

Joint monitoring commission

  • Professor Antoni Bulbena
    Professor of Psychiatry.
    Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine of the UAB.
  • Isabel Buil
    Director of the Affinity Foundation.
  • Professor Adolf Tobeña
    Professor emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine of the UAB.
  • Dr. Celina Torre
    Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
    Director of Research of Affinity Petcare.
  • Dr. Oscar Vilarroya
    Physician and doctor of Cognitive Science.
    Director of Research of the Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine of the UAB.
  • Professor Lluís Ferrer
    Chair of Animal Pathology of the Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery.
  • Dr. Joan Ramon Fortuny
    Psychiatrist.
    Director of the Process of Psycho-social Rehabilitation of the Mar Health Park of Barcelona.

Collaborators

Contact

Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine of the UAB
Faculty of Medicine
UAB Campus
Tel. (+34) 93 581 23 81
08193 – Bellaterra
Jaume.fatjo@uab.es