Who's rescuing Who?
Animals

Should we call them pets or mental health stabilizers?

Who’s Rescuing Who?

My interview with a local therapist and a supervisor for the San Marcos Animal Shelter on the mental health benefits of owning an animal.

A dog’s life might just ends your strife 

By: Sabrina Fernandez

Since the pandemic more and more people are having to learn new ways to remain sane during these trying times. One way that people are coping with the new normal is animals, more specifically pets. The emotional support that owning a pet provides for pet owners has become a saving grace during a time when depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are ever-growing. The Washington Post reported that, “Text messages to the federal government’s disaster distress hotline increased by more than 1,000 percent in April.” With animals becoming the targeted solution to faulty mental health, animal shelters have become the holy grail for finding one’s support system. 

The Washington Post conducted an interview with the CEO of Talkspace, Oren Frank, where he claims that “Talkspace reported a 65 percent jump in clients since mid-February.” Talkspace is an online therapy company dedicated to providing convenient and affordable therapy without the challenges of an emotionally charged environment. The increase in people asking for help suggests that it has become harder for individuals to cope with everyday issues on their own. 

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A pair of kittens up for adoption at The San Marcos Animal Shelter. They reach out for human interaction after discovering they have visitors and potential new friends.
Contributor: Sabrina Fernandez 

 Licensed Clinical Social worker and therapist, Stephanie Cutler, agrees with the assessment that more and more people are having difficulty coping with the stresses of everyday life. “ Since the start of the pandemic, Depression anxiety levels have elevated across the world for most of the clients that I work with and from what I hear from my colleagues as well and their work with their clients. As a way to help Cutler recommends pet ownership to clients that are exhibiting a struggle to achieve everyday tasks. “Some people have an easier time doing things for other people, so caring for an animal can get people out of bed or out of their homes. The act of caring for an animal can help them to function more greatly.”

The mental health benefits of owning a pet include lower levels of depression, anxiety, and a higher survival rate. The emotional support that pets provide translates into a healthy lifestyle they promote through the need for structure. It is in the structure they require that creates a healthy lifestyle, the simple activity of taking your dog for a walk enables productivity which leads to lower levels of anxiety and depression. HelpGuide.org claims that “Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.” 

The number of animals being adopted has risen since the start of the pandemic. Shelter Animals Count is a non-profit data collecting organization that suggests during the time between January and June, adoption rates have increased from 64% to 73%. With adoptions increasing, shelter euthanization has decreased by 43%, showing an overall higher number of animals gaining the ability to live another day. 

Non-profit animal shelter, Texas Human Heroes, saw record-breaking numbers since the start of COVID-19. Within the first six months of 2020, Texas Human Hero’s saw 2,017 adoptions which are on track to beat their 2019 total of 3,113 for the whole year. 

Texas State student, Courtney Glass, visits The San Marcos Animal Shelter. After finding many of the animals interesting, Glass attempts to interact with them by slowing introducing her scent.
Contributor: Sabrina Fernandez

 The owning of a pet does not only benefit the owner. When animals are adopted from shelters, they are saved from potential euthanization or harmful situations. There is a key relationship that takes place when adopting an animal. Not only is the pet providing emotional support for their owner but their owner is providing emotional support for them too. It raises the question of “who is rescuing who?”

Marcos Animal Shelter supervisor, Christie Banduch, supports the notion that there is a transaction of emotional support taking place when individuals decide to adopt an animal. “If someone is adopting they should remember that these animals are going from possibly a traumatic situation to another scary situation. Then they are getting whizzed through the process here and Then taken home and expected to just be a dog or a cat.” Banduch continued, “They need decompression time to adjust, cause they have been through a lot too.” Both the owner and the animal provide emotional support for each other that creates a bond for life. 

With the number of individuals in distress over their mental health soaring, people are looking towards animals for help. There is a correlation between the number of people suffering from a lack of mental stability and the number of animals being adopted. From that correlation comes a relationship of codependence that benefits both parties by providing emotional support that leads to a healthier lifestyle. From that codependence forms a life-altering bond that creates stability and joy for those involved. 

  • Who's rescuing Who?
At a time when maintaining our mental health can feel like a loosing battle, the emotional support that animals provide has become essential to staying sane during these trying times.

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