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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions


A. Health

The physiological benefits of owning a pet is well-documented; many studies report that pet ownership reduces health problems such as cardiovascular diseases (Rowan and Beck, n.d.; Serpell, 1993). Erika Friedmann and her colleagues studied the effect of pet ownership on patients recovering from hospitalization for myocardial infarction (heart attack) or severe angina pectoris (pain caused by lack of oxygen to the heart). In one study, 50 out of 53 pet owners were alive 1 year after hospitalization compared to only 17 out of 39 persons who did not own pets; this finding was independent of the health status of the subjects (Cusack, 1988). Interestingly, research has also shown that while talking to pets lowers blood pressure, talking to people raises it (Arkow, 1982). Dr. James Serpell conducted a 10-month study comparing pet owners and non-pet owners:

The pet owners reported a reduction in minor health problems and took considerably more physical exercise. In contrast, the non-pet owners showed no statistically significant changes in health or behaviour, apart from a small increase in recreational walking. The results of this study appear to demonstrate beneficial changes in health and behaviour in most of the people acquiring pets. No explanation for the mechanisms responsible for the observed changes in pet owners emerges from these findings. The results of this study suggest that pet ownership also has positive health benefits, and these deserve further study. (Serpell, 1993)

Rowan and Beck (n.d.) also support the benefits of pet ownership:

Most of the people noted that the pets provided them with companionship and a sense of security and the opportunity for fun/play and relaxation. Animals allow people to experience bonding. Pets are non-judgmental in their love...