USA Weekend Cover Story: Why Pets Are Priceless

It's common knowledge that pets are good for us. Scientists around the world know this!

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There are now two questions those of us in my world are asking... One of those questions I address in this past weekend's USA Weekend.

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Read about new studies revealing WHY pets are good for us. I mean exactly, what's going on? We now know, even watching an old Lassie movie can raise serotonin. But how does that happen, and why? Here's the thing: We know pets are healthful, but what is the medical mechanism, and how does that work?

And the second question - proving that pets are good for us, understanding how it works...then what is a greater societal impact? That's a question which American Humane wants to understand an answer to, and then actually wants to help advocate for those societal changes.

As the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Edward Creagan notes, "A pet is a medication without side effects." Creagan, an oncologist, actually sometimes prescribes a pet to his patients.

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Another example, we're beginning to understand that first, service dogs REALLY DO help returning veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. What's more, fewer meds for our veterans means taxpayers don't have to pay for those meds, and as individuals the veterans can contribute to society since they're healthier.

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And we're now only beginning to determine how pets can help in our aging society, no doubt pets ought to be a standard for independent living  facilities. And this isn't only a dogcentric issue, cats must have a role too. If you think pets are part of the family now, wait 20 years - the possibilities will be better living for all of us.

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This is a topic I feel passionately about.

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We know that people who are violent to animals are more likely to be violent in society. But as I often suggest - I personally believe the reverse is likely also true. Living with animals make us kinder, gentler and more empathetic to one another.  As the saying goes, 'If I can only aspire to be the person my dog believes I am.' I think we all can aspire to be nearly that good, and if we succeed we'll do far better than we are now. 

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