The Human-Animal Bond

Published 4:55 am Saturday, May 4, 2013

We have all seen the human-animal bond in one form or another. Whether with your own pet or someone else’s pet, the bond between a person and an animal exists on many levels.  Although officially termed in the early 1980s and was initially taught in veterinary universities over a decade ago, the concept of a human-animal bond began in the 1930s.  But the relationship between animals and humans has existed for thousands of years. As animals have become increasingly domesticated, this bond became more evident.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) describes the human-animal bond as a “mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.”
The human-animal bond is also officially recognized by the AVMA. Such public examples include K-9 police and military units, search and rescue dogs, seeing-eye dogs, and therapy animals. These “working” animals, primarily dogs, typically receive the best of care and medical service. But, this author has also personally seen the love and attention these animals receive from their handlers. This creates a high level bond for successful training and devout loyalty.
On a personal level, the human-animal bond may reach levels much deeper than ever expected. There are many stories and pictures on the Internet representing the bond, both by animals and by people. One such example was of a fallen Navy SEAL where his Labrador Retriever refused to leave the side of his owner’s casket. Another example was of a cat separated from her people during a vacation, but 2 months later and 200 miles away, the cat found her way home. The found cat was not a look-alike stray — its identity was confirmed with a microchip. Entertainment has also depicted the human-animal bond.  Such movies include Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Marley and Me and War Horse, just to name a few.
The human-animal bond exists, from therapy animals to your own personal home pet.  Despite psychologists and sociologists trying to put theories (biophilia hypothesis, social support theory, self-object theory) to try to explain why the human-animal bond exists, does it really matter? Our pets give us such support and unconditional love, it should only be natural to return that love. “Treat people the way you want to be treated” also applies to our pets. Give them the TLC (tender loving care) they deserve.

Boorus Yim DVM, MS, BS
Pamlico Animal Hospital
Associate Veterinarian