New Pet Alliance Europe asks: Can Pets Power Health in Europe?

In an online event organised with Parliament Magazine on 29 September, the newly formed Pet Alliance Europe discussed human-animal bond research, how it can be applied in health care policies, and whether Europeans recognise the many benefits that assistance animals can provide.

Hosted by MEP Sirpa Pietikainen Honorary President of the European Parliament Intergroup on Animal Welfare, the event focused on whether companion animals can play a more prominent role in our society and in our health. The MEP shared her views on how pets supported our mental health during this past year and how their good care in return is important.

Panellist, Andrea Gavinelli, Head of Animal Welfare at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety answered questions on provisions for companion animals within the current review of EU Animal Welfare legislation.

Professor Dominique Grandjean, from the Alfort National Veterimary School (EnvA) in France presented Project Nosaïs Covid-19 detection dogs. The project’s work training dogs to detect COVID-19 on human sweat samples has been validated by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and a working group has been established together with the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and national teams from Finland, the UK and the USA to support further training as well as establish international guidelines for training the dogs. His story is a perfect current example of #PetPower.

The European animal health and pet food industry associations, AnimalhealthEurope and FEDIAF, developed the term #PetPower when the associations came together last year to bring this topic to the EU agenda. It refers collectively to animal-assisted interventions, service animal offerings and the general human-animal bond. The associations hope that by bringing projects such Nosaïs Covid-19 detection dogs to the attention of EU decision-makers, the wide-ranging benefits can be considered for policy development.

Speaking at the event AnimalhealthEurope President, Hans-Guenther Dittrich said:

“Pet-keeping is a common part of many cultures. Humans have been sharing their lives with animals from time immemorial, and according to research, this bond has a profound effect on us. We wish to maximise the effects of #PetPower by advocating for recognition at EU level of consensus-led standards for the welfare of assistance dogs and for harmonisation of standards of care for animal-assisted interventions.”

FEDIAF President Annet Palamba added:

“We would also like to see an increased focus on the science behind #PetPower. It is important that studies are scientifically rigorous and shared widely so that people in medical fields, health care decision-makers and policy makers understand the power of the bond. We believe such research can support prioritisation of how to leverage the effects for physical, mental, and emotional care in national and regional healthcare policies, healthy aging policies, and education policies.”