Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Closer Look at Pets and Healthy Aging

Two articles involving our group were recently published on the topic of pet ownership and healthy aging.

In a Health & Place paper that stemmed from Ann Toohey's master's thesis, Calgarian dog-owners aged 50+ and who walked their dogs on most days of a usual week were found to score higher, on average, on a sense of community scale than either non-owners or dog-owners who infrequently walked their dogs. Ann has since undertaken a comprehensive investigation of policy for healthy aging in Canadian cities, and completed the coursework for her PhD in Population and Public Health at the University of Calgary.

Meanwhile, Anthrozoos published an article that was led by Chelsea Himsworth and that began as a term paper for her doctoral studies in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. This paper was based on a large-scale survey conducted by Statistics Canada and revealed that pet owners in their senior years were not more satisfied with life, overall, than non-owners. Yet seniors who were living alone, divorced or separated tended to report higher satisfaction with life if they were pet owners. The domestic context, not just pet ownership status, appears to be important to consider. Chelsea is a veterinarian and this article was a sideline; the research that forms the basis of her PhD is known as the Vancouver Rat Project.

Taken together, these articles disrupt simplistic ideas about pets and senior citizens, while underscoring that for many older adults, pets are of vital importance to health and well-being.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

What do pet bylaws adopted by local councils or municipal governments have to do with health promotion?

This paper, published electronically today, seeks to answer that question. The conceptual framework for the analysis drew together the field of anthrozoology with the work of Mariana Valverde, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucualt. It was a privilege to work with the editorial team at Critical Public Health and receive constructive reviews on two previous versions.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Politicizing Pet Waste in Urbanized Societies

This month's issue of Anthropology News puts the spotlight on the issue of waste, and the contributions include a commenatary by yours truly on pet waste. The accompanying photograph was taken by Ann Toohey, who works with me as a PhD student, and features her endearing dog, Lucy Blue. In 2011, a literature review that Ann led highlighted the negative impact of litter from dog waste as a deterrant of physical activity, notably in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and among older adults. Ann also contributed to another literature review, published in 2010, that drew attention to litter from dog waste as a negative influenceas a salient insight from qualitative research on park use.

Also this month, Critical Public Health included a terrific qualitative study focused squarely on the negative symbolism of litter from dog waste -- the first of its kind, to the best of my knowledge. The accompanying editorial contends -- entirely correctly -- that the concept of 'one health' (connections between the health of people, animals, and shared ecosystems) warrants deeper thought. In that light, I was delighted to receive an acceptance notice this week from Critical Public Health for a paper that treats the City of Calgary's Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw as a case study, inclusive of its provisions on litter from both dogs and cats, on public as well as private property.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Currently, I am a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Sydney. Back in Calgary, dog owners are about to receive a survey on dog care, including where their dogs are walked, with a view to understanding parasites in the gut move across space and species boundaries. This project is unusal in that many respondents will be asked to provide a fecal sample from their dogs for laboratory analysis. Anya Smith will use the quessionnaire and laboratory data for her PhD thesis, and I am proud to be a member of her supervisory committee.

Friday, 11 May 2012

This week I had the pleasure of presenting at the Canadian Anthropology Society meetings in Edmonton. I took the risk of presenting in Pecha-Kucha style, meaning that I prepared 20 'powerpoint' slides and set the timer so that each slide would be displayed for only 20 seconds. I liked the idea of other people presenting in this way, so thought I should be supportive of innovation. It was a lot of fun! To fit in with the conference theme of 'the unexpected,' I told a whirlwind version of the story of how I ended up in public health and focusing my research program on people's pets. A question from the audience put me onto Sylvia Tissot's research on the role of dog-ownership in negotiations over access to space in Boston. I'll be tracking down this article tomorrow.