Recently Being commenced a survey asking you to share how animals help your mental health. We were thrilled with the number of responses, stories and photos of your furbabies and featherbabies and how important they are to your mental health.

The photos you sent us of your fur babies and feather babies, and the stories to go with them, have been heartening. It is amazing how we connect to our pets, not just during COVID-19, but always.

Interactions on our social media pages were outstanding too, our Facebook page alone was seen by over 12,000 people. If you have not had a chance to see our Facebook page and stories of both Jo and Erika’s beautiful fur babies, please take the time to do so. They are absolutely gorgeous!

Many respondents to our ongoing survey said their animals help ground them and were equally as important to their mental health recovery as any medication or other intervention. For many, their animals had become even more important since the onset of the COVID-19.

Lifting mood and reducing loneliness were the most common mental health benefits for respondents, while a majority also cited the benefits of exercising their animal and of being responsible for their care.

One respondent told us about the amazing help her Tamaruke assistance dog Gus is in her life:

“Apart from keeping me safe by assisting me to notice when I’m dissociating and assisting me to ground myself, Gus picks up things I drop like credit cards, keys etc when I’m not aware of my body.

“If I can’t get out of bed he pulls the blankets off. Before Gus I would stay in bed for weeks.”

Another respondent said having a dog made her feel more hopeful: “Having watched her progression from the terrified furball who I fostered 7 years ago, to the much more confident, playful, and loving girl she is now… it just gives me hope, and makes me feel like I did something good in the world.”

These sentiments by another respondent were echoed by others too: “My dog helps me be ‘other-focused’ as I care for her needs of food, water, affection, walks and swims. When I see her happy it lifts my mood.”

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners acknowledged the many aspects of ‘the pet effect’, noting that animal-assisted therapy benefitted “People of all ages with various disorders”. Even the Federal Government advocates animal ownership for the many mental health benefits.

Animal welfare spokespeople have noted an increase in cat and dog adoptions recently, and advised that we need to be prepared to keep them for life.

There have been some concerns that pets and companion animals could transmit coronavirus. The World Organisation for Animal Health agreed and said “there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare”.

If you don’t have an animal at home, don’t let that stop you. Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is currently livestreaming its tigers, seals and elephants! 

As a consequence of the response, and the importance of pets in our lives, we have decided to continue our survey until Monday, May 4.

Send us a photo of you/your family and your pet/assistance animal to: communications@being.org.au

Complete our survey on the mental health benefits of pets and assistance animals here.

Watch Taronga Zoo’s animal live streams here.

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