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People seeking 'pet social support'

Wednesday October 20th 2010

People are turning away from friends and family and finding comfort and companionship in their pets, a professor has claimed.

Animal-human interaction expert Professor James Serpell said that pets are growing in popularity as "more traditional social networks break down". In the US alone, 63% of homes have at least one pet, he added.

Prof Serpell said at the New Zealand Companion Animal Conference in Christchurch: "People are having fewer children, marriages are lasting less well and friendships seem more transient.

"In all probability, people are responding to the deficits in their lives by simply using animals as an alternative. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it's just the way we are."

Previous studies have found that while pets can offer "social support" to people, there is also a tendency for the owners to humanise their pets, which can lead to owners becoming more reliant socially and emotionally on their pet.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

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