becoming well together: health and the human-animal bond
This research reconstructs how twentieth century veterinarians, physicians, and psychiatrists collaborated to establish the ‘human-animal bond’ as a scientific object with relevance to health and wellbeing. Themes include the training of animals to improve human mental and physical health (animal-assisted therapy) and the use of animals to recognize life-threatening conditions such as diabetic crisis. A major focus is the historical emergence of ‘Pet Therapy’ and ‘Emotional Therapy Animals’, which use human relationships to nonhuman animals as a therapeutic intervention to benefit mental health and wellbeing.
The history of the human-animal bond reveals how medicine productively contributed to reshaping human understanding of, and relations to, nonhuman animals, whilst being transformed itself in the process. More broadly, this work identifies a shift in medical thinking, where concepts such as symbiosis and interdependence, which historically remained marginal to Western scientific medicine, have begun to be recovered and deployed as useful frames for understanding life, health and wellbeing in the early twenty-first century.