Separation from pets can cause health risks and psychological damage

New research has shed led on the “excruciating” impact of a person being forcibly separated from their pet, a situation which can bring an increased risk to safety and psychological harm for both humans and animals.

“Our results reveal the strong emotional attachment between people and animals may result in vulnerability for both in circumstances where this bond is threatened,” said Jasmine Montgomery of James Cook University in Australia.

“When people are being forced to separate in the context of a crisis situation, such as natural disaster, homelessness or domestic violence, it can result in psychological distress and the risk to their health, and well-being and safety are really impacted,” the team found.

The impact cuts both ways, the team explained, with pets badly affected when kept in homes affected by domestic violence, with “maltreatment and/or death” a common outcome.

Such separation, while often avoidable, can be forced in emergency situations by a lack of resources to accommodate pets, as well the cultural belief of human well-being as superior to that of animals.

The researchers said people with a strong emotional bond to their pet are more likely to remain in dangerous situations, for example failing to evacuate during a natural disaster or not fleeing an abusive relationship for fear of the pet being separated or harmed.

The research took in 27 years of information from numerous databases and articles and was published in January in Anthrozoös, a journal covering interactions between people and other animals.

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