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Pets for Life as One Health

The aim of this study is to measure the impacts of an intensive animal welfare intervention on public and environmental health within the One Health framework.

The future of companion animal welfare work is becoming increasingly contingent upon its ability to serve as a resource for all pets in the community, not just those who end up at an animal shelter. To achieve transformational change, the field of animal welfare must adapt to work effectively at the community level by recognizing that the health of humans, animals and the environment are intimately interconnected within the One Health framework.

In collaboration with Humane Society of the United States, IHAC is conducting a study to measure the community-wide impacts of the Pets for Life program. Because this program focuses on improving access to veterinary healthcare, it offers a unique opportunity to assess the potentially linked impacts on human and environmental health. The study to test the One Health concept is being conducted in four new Pets for Life communities.

Estimating Rates of Pet-Keeping in Underserved Communities

The pet inventory component of our data collection in the Pets for Life as One Health study addresses the limitations of current methods used to estimate pet ownership rates on the national, state, and individual level. This dataset demonstrate the potential to under or over estimate pet keeping rates in specific communities, if national estimations are generalized to individual communities. IHAC's pet inventory consists of a community-level assessment to provide one of the most detailed measurement of household pet ownership to date. Furthermore, this project directs attention to the importance of accurate community-specific data collection to assess the impacts and effectiveness of animal welfare programs. It is crucial for policymakers to have an accurate measure of household pet ownership when making decisions on how to allocate resources.

The One Health Community Assessment

For the purposes of the Pets for Life as One Health study, IHAC has developed a specialized survey instrument to measure One Health at the community level. The instrument was developed through a series of qualitative interviews in Sun Valley and Westwood neighborhoods of Denver, Colorado, USA. The One Health Community Assessment (OHCA) measures changes in animal welfare, public health, and environmental health at the individual household level, while accounting for barriers an individual might experience to accessing services. An exploratory factor analysis of the first year of data collected using the OHCA demonstrated that the instrument performs with high rates of reliability (α = .941).

Measuring Access to Care

Although there is an increase in the number of pet support programs around the U.S. who are focused on increasing access to veterinary care, IHAC conducted the first study to provide empirical evidence that a community-based companion animal welfare program can increase access to pet care in a community. In this study, the IHAC research team measured the impact of the Pets for Life (PFL) intervention on perceptions of access to pet care in the two urban and two rural communities from 2018-19 using six questions from the One Heath Community Assessment. The urban community who received the PFL intervention (Madison, WI) was associated with a higher aggregate measure of access to pet care compared to the urban site that did not receive the PFL intervention (Seattle, WA). Residents of the urban intervention community (Madison, WI) also reported higher perceptions of access to affordable pet care options and higher access to pet care service providers who offer payment options than residents of the urban comparison community (Seattle, WA). Further analyses with a subset of Pets for Life clients comparing pre-intervention and post-intervention survey responses revealed statistically significant positive trends in disaggregated perceptions of access to pet care. No statistically significant changes in perceptions were observed in the rural communities. The research team is currently conducting psychometric analyses of this instrumentation and plans to make it available for the public to use.