John Bradshaw’s new book The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us Human is going to make the suits in the front offices of the pet food corporations squirm. But while it is certain to ruffle some feathers, it’s also the most important treatment of our relationships with pets in 30 years. Bradshaw is one of the founders of anthrozoology, the study of human-animal interactions, and he is well-qualified to unpack the latest developments in our understanding of the human-animal bond.
This book is coming out at a good time. The number of research articles published on human-animal relationships has jumped from a handful in 1987 to more than 1,000 a year today. Nearly two dozen academic journals are now devoted to the topic, and university centers for the study of human-animal interactions are cropping up worldwide. The media is certainly paying attention: The Washington Post, for example, has a full-time reporter on the animal beat.
Scads of animal books are published every year, but this one is unique. First, it provides an accessible overview of the current state of knowledge in anthrozoology by a pioneer in the field. Second, Bradshaw develops a comprehensive theory to account for why pet-keeping evolved in our species — and only in our species. Finally, he takes on sacred cows that will even raise the hackles of other researchers. For example, Bradshaw discounts the industry and media hype extolling the health benefits of pet ownership. He writes, “Reliable studies have generally failed to find convincing proof that living with animals makes their owners healthier.”
Here are 26 more tidbits I picked up from The Animals Among Us:
Pets, Culture, and History
Pets, Health, and Human Happiness
How We Think About Animals
The Bond Between People and Pets
"So, why then, do we keep animals as companions?" asks Dr. Bradshaw. You may be surprised by his answers.