Media Release

Has COVID-19 made life harder for pets and their guardians?

Research project will examine the impact of the pandemic on people and their pets to learn how they can be helped to deal with future disasters

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and Dalhousie University are launching a joint research project to identify hardships faced by people and their pets as a result of COVID-19 and to find ways to protect them in the event of similar emergencies in future.

“Anecdotally, we know the pandemic has made life difficult for both people and their animals,” said VHS executive director Amy Morris. “People are struggling to pay vet bills. Veterinary services have been under strain. People are being faced with the decision of having to give up or euthanize their four-legged companions, who are serving as their mental health supports. We want to prevent this from happening in future.”

Morris said research has shown that the human-animal bond is important to the health of both people and their animal companions. The joint research project will examine how the pandemic has affected that bond and what measures could be taken to make it more resilient. This could include improving access to social, health and veterinary services for pet owners in crisis.

Dr. Haorui Wu, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University, said the research could lead to better support for people and their animals facing adversity. “Healthy human-animal bonds play a vital role in strengthening the resilience capacities of pet guardians and their animals, to prepare for, respond to, adapt to, and recover from extreme events.”

The project is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engage Grants.