This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Request for agreement signed by the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, and Young Diggers’ Dog Squad (YDDS) Chairman of Directors on 10 August 2018'.

Defence FOI 169/18/19
2
BRIEF FOR CAF (THROUGH DCAF):
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH s47G

ARRANGEMENT OF TIME FOR SIGNATURE
Branch: DGCHAP-AF
Reference: B1971473
Due Date:  Discretionary
Recommendations:
That you:
(a)
Note your earlier agreement for commencement of a six-month trial of the RAAF 
Workplace Welfare Dog Program across Air Force under the sponsorship of the Air 
Force Chaplain Branch.
(b)
Note the preparedness of the executive management of the s47G
 to co-sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Air Force to establish the 
RAAF Workplace Welfare Dog Program.
(c)
Note the change in scope of locations for placement of dogs with Chaplain handlers at 
Air Force Bases.
(d)
Agree to the change in scope for locations for placement of dogs with approved 
Chaplain handlers. 
(e)
Agree to a date and time for co-signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with 
an authorised representative of the s47G
 in your office. 
Background 
1. 
Enclosure 1 is the original brief proposing a six month trial of the RAAF Workplace 
Welfare Dog (WWD) Program that you approved in Dec 17, with dogs to be trained by the 
s47G
 and placed at three Air Force establishments, 
Edinburgh, Williamtown and the Canberra area. 
2. 
Enclosure 2 is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), now ready for signing 
between Air Force and s47G  to set the terms and conditions for conduct of the six-month 
trial of the RAAF WWD Program.
Key issues
3. 
Since approval, progress has been impeded by the requirement for a Memorandum of 
Understanding (MOU) between Air Force and s47G  to legally constitute terms and 
conditions of the program.  Development of the MOU was prepared in consultation with 
SOLS-AFHQ staff and referred to the executive management for consideration and 
agreement.
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4.
As a result of the s47F
, and the consequent ‘changing of the guard’, the MOU stalled.  The MOU, with all 
its terms and conditions, was agreed to at a meeting of the s47G  Directors on Wednesday, 
27 Jun 18. 
5. 
Under the original proposal, Chaplains at Edinburgh, Williamtown and the Canberra 
area volunteered to participate as handlers in the program.  Due to the elapsed time since 
approval of enclosure 1, circumstances have changed for two of the three Chaplains who are 
unable to continue.  As the Program is dependent upon voluntary participation of Chaplain 
handlers, the invitation for participation was widened and the Bases that will now be involved 
are Williamtown, East Sale and Pearce.
Consultation 
6.
SOLS-AFHQ has concurred with the context of the MOU and the executive 
management of s47G  is now prepared to co-sign the MOU.  COs and SADFOs at RAAF 
Bases Williamtown, East Sale and Pearce have been consulted and have indicated their 
favour with the conduct of the trial program over a six-month period. 
Conclusion 
7. 
Your agreement is now sought to set a date and time for s47F
, a Director 
of s47G  authorised to represent the organisation, to attend your office for co-signing of the 
MOU.  In addition, your agreement is sought for a change of scope to now include RAAF 
Bases East Sale and Pearce in lieu of Edinburgh and the Canberra area, along with RAAF 
Base Williamtown.  DSIM-AF has also requested that a Ministerial Advice be prepared to 
inform MINDEF and MINDP of this initiative.
(a) Noted / Please Discuss
(b) Noted / Please Discuss
(c) Noted / Please Discuss
(d) Agreed / Disagreed
(e) Agreed / Disagreed
MA Willis
CHAP (AIRCDRE)
DGCHAP-AF
GN DAVIES, AO, CSC
Tel: ( 02) 6265 7013 
AIRMSHL
M:  s22
CAF
Jul 18
Jul 18
Branch/Section Head
DGCHAP-AF
W: (02) 6128 7595
Mob: s22
Action Officer
WGCDR PL Cranage
W: (02) 6128 7572
Mob: s22
Enclosures:
1. 
Approved Brief to CAF for trial of RAAF Workplace Welfare Dog Program. 
2.
MOU – RAAF Workplace Welfare Dog Program.
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Defence FOI 169/18/19
BRIEF FOR CAF (THROUGH ACAUST AND DCAF): TRIAL OF A RAAF
WORKPLACE WELFARE DOG PROGRAM

Branch: DGCHAP-AF
Reference:  R32057907
Due Date:  EOY 2017
RECOMMENDATIONS 
That you: 
(a)  Note the beneficial effects that Workplace Welfare Dogs (WWDs) can have on the general welfare 
and morale of individuals and Unit personnel.  
(b)  Agree the attached Initial Business Case proposing a trial placement for the WWD Program at 
RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Williamtown and the Canberra area. 
BACKGROUND
1.
In May 2015, SQNLDR s47F
(PERSPOL1), then a member of s47G
presented a brief to the Air Force Chaplaincy 
Leadership Group on s47G
.
Throughout the presentation SQNLDR s47F
was accompanied by her own Welfare Dog, Tana, 
a former ADF explosives detection dog. 
2. 
Air Force Chaplain Branch sponsorship of an initiative to place WWDs in RAAF 
workplaces to bolster general morale and welfare at RAAF Bases through a Base Welfare Dog 
Program was advocated, subject to your approval.  If approved, a six month trial could commence 
at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Williamtown and the Canberra area as soon as possible after 
obtaining your agreement.
3. 
This program trial will be used to determine viability and, if successful, will shape a formal 
Business Case for approval of wider implementation of the WWD Program. 
KEY POINTS
4. 
Air Force has an opportunity to implement an innovative mental health and welfare 
programme. Army and Joint Health Command have also expressed strong interest in the program. 
5. 
All dogs used for the workplace welfare dog program are certified assistance dogs IAW 
extant Commonwealth and State legislation. 
6. 
The dogs used for the RAAF Edinburgh and Canberra area trials s47G
.
The dog used in the RAAF Williamtown trial s47G
or will be a young 
dog already owned by a Chaplain at Williamtown that, if assessed as suitable, will be trained to the 
appropriate standard by s47G  for use at that Base.
7. 
The attached Initial Business Case outlines details of research undertaken and procedures to 
be adopted if approval is granted. 
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8.
s47D
s47G
s47D
CONSULTATION
9. 
Base Chaplains have been consulted to register interest for trial locations.  SADFOs at 
Amberley, Williamtown and Edinburgh were initially approached and agreed to trialling of the 
program.  DACAUST subsequently concurred, subject to CAF approval.  SADFOs in those 
regions were generally agreeable provided that the dog accesses the domestic areas only and 
security staff are made aware of the dog’s presence in advance. At present, Chaplains at RAAF 
Bases Edinburgh and Williamtown and more recently the Canberra area have expressed interest 
in domicile of dogs, therefore, the trial will be limited to those regions for the time being. 
10. 
As the Canberra area Chaplain has only recently indicated willingness to participate, 
SADFOs for establishments in Canberra where there is a RAAF population have also been 
consulted and have indicated their support.  Mr Bruno Blasi, the APS Base Support Manager 
for the Russell, Campbell Park and APW precincts was also consulted due to the significant 
level of APS personnel in close proximity to Air Force personnel.  He has also indicated 
support for the program.  
11.
s47G
  
12. 
Appropriate stakeholders have been approached for concurrence and their support is 
addressed in the Executive Summary.  
TIMELINE 
13. 
Approval by EOY 2017 would greatly assist to facilitate early consultation with 
stakeholders and lead to implementation of the program in early 2018. 
(a) Noted / Please Discuss
(b) Agreed / Not Agreed
K RUSSELL
GN DAVIES, AO, CSC
CHAP (AIRCDRE)
AIRMSHL
DGCHAP-AF
CAF
Tel: ( 02) 6265 7013
M:  s22
Nov 17
Nov 17
Branch/Section Head
DGCHAP-AF
W: (02) 6265 7013
Mob: s22
Action Officer
WGCDR PL Cranage
W: (02) 6128 7659
Mob: s22
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Attachments: 
1. Initial 
Business 
Case. 
2.
s47G
 Training Manual. 
3. 
Australian Veterinary Association article – Pets prove to be a positive influence on social 
 capital 
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Defence FOI 169/18/19
INITIAL BUSINESS CASE 
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE WORKPLACE WELFARE DOG PROGRAM 
Director General Chaplaincy – Air Force 
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TABLE OF CONTENTS 
1. Executive 
Summary. 
2.  
Introduction: 
ƒ  Business Needs. 
ƒ  Project Background. 
ƒ  The  
s47G
Program.
ƒ  Program Scope. 
ƒ  Program Plan.
ƒ  Key Program Stakeholders.
3. Program 
Resource 
Requirements: 
ƒ  Proposed Statement of Requirements. 
ƒ  Identification of suitable handlers. 
4. Risk 
Management: 
ƒ  External Risks: 
-  Training Program. 
-  Dog selection. 
-  Accreditation of s47G .
ƒ  Internal Risks: 
-  Awareness of program. 
-  Lack of potential handlers. 
-  Funding issues. 
-  Mistreatment of the dog. 
-  Dog aggressiveness and toilet training. 
-  Health issues. 
5. Safety 
Considerations. 
6. Cost. 
7. 
Benefits to Air Force. 
8. Recommendation.
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. 
This Initial Business Case seeks approval from CAF for a six month trial of a RAAF 
Workplace Welfare Dog (WWD) Program at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Williamtown and in the 
Canberra area.  Should the program prove successful at the conclusion of the six month trial, a 
formal Business Case will be submitted seeking approval for wider establishment of the program at 
viable establishments. 
2. 
The program will be sponsored by DGCHAP-AF in concert with the s47G
 
    The  dogs, 
usually rescued dogs, and their select Chaplain handlers, will undergo training to Level 4 
certification with s47G  accredited trainers initially for two weeks at the s47B(a)
 and thereafter in their local areas for supplementary training to befit them for the task. 
3. 
The implementation of the RAAF WWD Program will be of great benefit under the 
sponsorship of RAAF Chaplaincy. This initiative is viewed as an appropriate and natural extension 
of RAAF Chaplaincy, as the aim of the program is to exponentially raise morale and general 
awareness of mental health as one of the keys to the overall health and wellbeing of the 
organisation. These dogs have the potential to extend the mission of RAAF Chaplaincy further and 
to reach out to many more members who may be suffering emotionally or psychologically in 
isolation. 
4. 
The intent is for the dogs to be home-kennelled indoors in a family setting with a s47G -
approved Chaplain handler who will visit access-approved workplaces in company with the dog to 
foster pastoral relations, encourage conversation and enhance morale.  At the conclusion of each 
working day the dog will return to the home of its Chaplain handler. 
5. 
There will be no commingling of WWDs or Military Working Dogs (MWDs) at any of the 
regions and the dogs will sport a distinctive vest denoting that they are a WWD. The acting Brand 
Manager is amenable to the use of the RAAF emblem on a GPU-patterned vest with the words 
‘RAAF Welfare Workplace Dog’ emblazoned.  CO RAAFSFS is also supportive provided that 
there is a clear distinction between MWD and WWD vests. 
6. 
The Bases originally selected for the trial were Amberley, Williamtown and Edinburgh and 
the SADFOs at these bases are supportive of the trials subject to the dogs not venturing into areas 
with elemental WHS requirements, nor causing disruption to working routine.  SADFOs for 
Canberra-based Units and the Base Support Manager for the Russell, Campbell Park and APW 
precincts in the Estate & Infrastructure Group are also supportive.  DACAUST has also endorsed 
the trial subject to ACAUST concurrence and CAF approval; however, only Chaplains at 
Williamtown, Edinburgh and Canberra have been identified for participation to ascertain feasibility,
therefore, the trial would be restricted to these three regions. 
7. The 
Chaplain 
handlers 
are 
mindful 
that 
acceptance of a dog will be a commitment for the 
life of the dog irrespective of the outcome of the trial and that the dog remains a dedicated 
functionary during the Chaplain’s tenure at the Base, and possibly beyond, at successive locations.  
s47G
8. 
Performance measures will be applied to test the effectiveness of the WWD Program 
throughout the trial.  The effectiveness of the Chaplains’ visits in relation to social engagement and  
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interaction with members at the visit sites would be estimated, drawing on feedback from members 
to Chaplains and Unit management. 
9. 
Other performance measures might include observation of the influence the WWDs have on 
visitors to the Chaplaincy Centres based on the visitor comfort levels in the presence of the dog. 
This feedback on effectiveness would be compiled by Chaplains in a monthly report to unit 
management at the relevant bases. At the conclusion of the trial period a consolidated report would 
be provided to CAF, optimally in a formal Business Case seeking affirmation of the Program. 
10. 
DGPERS-AF, DAFH, CCJHC and SOL-AFHQ have been consulted and concur with the 
proposal.  From a health perspective, DAFH and CCJHC are content to support the program 
provided that it focuses on strategic health and wellbeing rather than PTSD and that the dogs are 
referred to as ‘Workplace Welfare Dogs’ rather than ‘Assistance Dogs’ to distinguish them from 
dogs with higher levels of specific function.  SOL-AFHQ advised that a MOU between s47G  and 
Air Force would be appropriate and that assistance could be provided for its drafting and execution. 
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INTRODUCTION 
1.
Business Needs. The value of assistance dogs in promoting wellbeing for individuals and 
social interaction within groups has long been understood.  This innovative capability tool affords 
Chaplaincy a unique opportunity to contribute to the mental health and wellbeing of Air Force 
personnel.   
2. 
From a capability perspective, the application of WWDs by Chaplains would enhance their 
potential to reach out to struggling members who might not be inclined to seek support from a 
Chaplain. This lack of inclination can be due to differing personal religious beliefs, the stigma 
perceived to be associated with seeking personal support, or simply a reluctance to address 
internalised issues. A WWD would serve as an ‘ice-breaker’ to establish a point of connection and 
potentially, a bond between the Chaplain and members, although handlers would first need to 
establish comfort levels of individuals with the presence of a dog prior to its introduction to a 
workplace. 
3. 
Chaplains are able to go where psychologists do not, by reaching out to personnel in the 
field and consequently, a WWD would work as an enabler to the mission of the Chaplain, thereby 
engendering a greater positive effect on members.  
4.
Project Background.  During the May 2015 Chaplains’ Leadership Group, SQNLDR 
s47F
 presented a brief to senior Air Force Chaplains on the s47G
   
  
   
     
 
 
 
Throughout 
her 
presentation, SQNLDR s47F
 was accompanied by her own welfare dog, Tana, a former ADF 
explosives detection dog.  
5. 
SQNLDR s47F
 discussed the positive aspects of welfare dogs in RAAF workplaces as 
well as RAAF Chaplaincy extending mental health support at RAAF Bases through a ‘Workplace 
Welfare Dog Program’. RAAF Chaplaincy expressed keen interest in the concept and DGCHAP-
AF accepted Branch sponsorship of the initiative subject to approval from CAF. 
s47G
8.
s47G
  
 four levels of 
certification to meet the Public Access Test (PAT) standard required under local, State and Federal 
laws before handover.   
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The four levels are defined as follows: 
a.
Level 1 assessment.  Conferment of the basic obedience certificate that demonstrates the 
handler has sound control of their canine. 
b.
Level 2 assessment.  The dog has earned the  
s47G
Learner’s 
jacket 
and 
an 
accreditation ID.  The team is then allowed access to public passage such as movie theatres, 
restaurants, shopping complexes and supermarkets. 
c.
Level 3 assessment.  This is a nationally-recognised assessment test in preparation for the 
PAT. 
d.
Level 4 assessment.  Recognises successful completion of the PAT and provides the dog 
with full accreditation for access to public passage including all forms of public transport.
9. 
The copy of the s47G
 at attachment 1 provides greater detail of dog 
training, handler obligations, assessment levels and local, State and Federal legislation governing 
access to public passage. 
10.
Program scope.  The scope of the RAAF WWD Program is to trial specially trained dogs as 
Welfare dogs for RAAF Chaplaincy at two RAAF Bases, Williamtown and Edinburgh, and in 
Canberra for six months initially, with a view to seeking formal adoption of the program at RAAF 
Bases Australia-wide if the trial proves successful. 
11. 
The scope does not include a trial of welfare dogs for individual members undergoing 
mental health treatment in the RAAF. The intent of this project is to prove the mateship value of the 
dogs working with Chaplains to build morale and enhance the emotional health and wellbeing of 
Air Force members and associated individuals.
12. 
Program Plan.  The implementation of RAAF WWDs is likely to be carried out in three 
phases. Phase 1 would be the six month-long trials at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Williamtown and 
across Canberra. Phase 2 would be the RAAF-wide invitation of other Chaplaincy centres and 
SADFOs to join in the program. Finally, Phase 3 would be the mature state of the program, 
involving continuous maintenance and improvement. The second and third iterations of the project 
would be refined and further scoped following a successful outcome of the Phase 1 trials. 
13. 
Key Program Stakeholders.  The major stakeholders in the program are:
a. 
CAF. 
b. 
HPC. 
c. 
DGPERS-AF. 
d. 
DGCHAP-AF. 
e. 
JHC. 
f. 
ACAUST. 
g. 
Base SADFO/ABXOs.
h. 
Base Chaplains.
i. 
SOL-AFHQ. 
j. 
s47G

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PROGRAM RESOURCE REQUIREMENTS
14. 
Despite the wide implications of the RAAF WWD Program, the program should not cause 
significant impost on existing RAAF resources. The dogs would be housed and taken care of by 
volunteer-handler RAAF Chaplains with s47G
 for the 
duration of the do’s role as a WWD. During the dog’s non-working hours, it would essentially be a 
pet of the handler and their family. The only resources required would be: 
a. 
Initial dog and handler training for two weeks proximate to the s47B(a)
s47G
 
b. 
s47D
c. 
s47G
15.
Proposed Statement of Requirements.  The requirements that are viewed as integral for 
the success of the program include: 
a. 
Agreement for participation of Chaplains as WWD handlers in trial locations with Air Force 
populations. 
b. 
s47G
c. 
Inclusion of an additional task for SODGCHAP-AF to act as the RAAF WWD Program 
Manager within the Air Force Chaplain Branch. 
d. 
SOL-AFHQ legal support to draft the MOU between RAAF and s47G . 
e. 
Public Affairs Office support for official launch of the program. 
16. 
Identification of suitable handlers.  s47G
 of Chaplains for 
participation in the program.  Sponsorship of the program is vested in the Chaplain Branch because 
Chaplains will have already completed training in the following skill sets: 
a. 
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. 
b. 
Two Day Mental Health First Aid Course. 
c. 
Senior First Aid Course with annual CPR refresher training. 
d. 
Difficult Conversations. 
e. 
Listening Skills.
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17. 
These skill sets are vital and will assist the Chaplains to identify personnel who may benefit 
from further pastoral interaction. 
RISK MANAGEMENT 
18. 
In considering risk management for this program, a number of points were addressed when 
consulting with stakeholders. They concern external and internal risks as follows:
a. 
External risks. Potential risks considered were: 
(1) Training program.  s47G
 The dogs will be trained to Level 4 certification by s47B(a)
.  Chaplain handlers will then be required to undertake a 
two week induction handover training course in Bathurst and ongoing annual 
supplementary training will be provided to the handlers in area. 
(2)  s47G
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(3) An MOU is to be drawn up in accordance with Air Force Chaplaincy’s requirements and 
s47G
 to mitigate external legal risk factors and combat any possible ambiguity and 
misunderstanding. The mutually agreed MOU will also include any associated fees and 
charges. 
(4) The dogs will all be trained to Level 4 certification with accreditation under State and 
Federal laws.  s47G
The dogs will 
accompany their Chaplain handlers on postings and agreement to this Business Case will 
ensure continuity of the program in successive locations. 
(5) Dog selection. s47G
 Ideally, suitable 
dog candidates would be medium-sized and optimally aged between six months to two 
years old for the most effective training.  
(6) s47G
b.
Internal risks.  Potential risks considered were: 
(1) Awareness of the program.  A launch of the new WWD program through an 
appropriate Public Relations campaign is recommended to mitigate the risk that the aim 
of the program will be misunderstood. The campaign would clearly inform personnel of 
the roll-out of the program, and its objectives and benefits to ADF personnel.  
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(2) The Defence Community Organisation (DCO) is very supportive of this unique program 
and will also be a valuable source of networking about the aims of the program within 
the wider Defence community.  
(3) Lack of potential handlers.  The scope of the trial has been limited to three handlers to 
gauge the likely success of the program.  It is anticipated that the program will expand 
once other Chaplains observe the benefits to be gained from pastoral visits with a 
companion dog.
(4) Funding issues.  s47D
s47G
   
    s47D
(5) Mistreatment of the dog. s47G
 
  The 
Chaplain would remain the responsible person for the correct treatment of the dog while 
on duty.  
(6) Dog aggressiveness and toilet training.  s47G
 Breeds such as Labradors are well-known for 
their gentle nature and temperament. A Welfare dog will undergo puppy obedience 
training to correct any inappropriate behaviour such as biting during play and going to 
the toilet anywhere in the house. Dogs that have not been de-sexed can retain any natural 
aggressive tendencies which could result in biting. To prevent this, dogs must be de-
sexed as well as being appropriately trained, including toilet training at an early age so 
as not to bite humans, irrespective of the dog’s breed. This will greatly ensure that at the 
right age, the dog will be suitable for training as a Welfare dog.  
(7) Health issues.  s47G
   s47D
  Such coverage is recommended as the ultimate 
defence for a dog falling sick or getting injured. This insurance can cover unforeseen 
events such as major surgery and dental work. There is always the vulnerability for an 
active dog to fall ill; however, with proper regular veterinary care the likelihood of 
significant cost from aggravated illness or injury could be greatly minimised. 
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SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
19. 
Chaplains who will be designated handlers will liaise with RAAFSAFE advisors to conduct 
risk assessments in their respective areas. An appropriate area of the Chaplaincy centre will be 
allocated for the dog during non-working business hours.  Chaplains will be mindful of potentially 
allergic and fearful members in workplaces and Units will be consulted prior to a Chaplain and 
WWDs entering the facility during the trial phase. 
COST 
20. 
s47D
s47G
.   s47D
 
BENEFITS TO AIR FORCE 
21. 
Leading Australian and international psychologists and mental health workers agree that 
animals can directly benefit the mental and physical health of people1 as discussed in attachment 3. 
Benefits include improvement to cardiovascular health, reduction of overall stress and anxiety 
levels, decreased loneliness and depression, promotion of social cohesion, and can assist those 
affected by a number of mental illnesses.  Through the medium of a companion dog as an ‘ice-
breaker’ Chaplains will be best placed to identify those individuals that may be in need of 
intervention.  The minimal costs to Air Force for supplementation and care of WWDs would be 
outweighed by the advantages to be derived from integration of the RAAF Workplace Welfare 
Dogs. 
RECOMMENDATION 
22. 
In the view of foregoing considerations and clear benefits to Air Force personnel, trial of the  
______________________ 
1   Australian Veterinary Association article – Pets prove to be a positive influence on social capital 
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program for a period of six months is strongly recommended. 
K RUSSELL 
CHAP (AIRCDRE) 
DGCHAP-AF
R8-3-042 
Tel:  (02) 6265 7013 
Mob: s22
email: [email address].a
      Nov 17 
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Pets prove to be a positive influence on social capital
Have you ever thought of pets as a uniting force encouraging cooperation, compromise and a general feeling of 
reciprocity? This sounds like a grandiose concept, but is a little more plausible when you see dog owners 
congregating at a dog park. Research shows that pets, and dogs in particular, can in fact bring people and 
communities together.
What I am referring to is ‘social capital’, a complex concept defined simply as social relationships/interactions that 
foster collective beneficial outcomes. Social capital has been shown to be beneficial in a range of social, 
economic and political spheres, from social integration, cohesion and general societal wellbeing, to the efficient 
running of modern economies and growth in gross domestic product (GDP), through to public health and 
community governance.1
In a study spanning four cities in two continents, researchers from The University of Western Australia have 
found that pet ownership contributes significantly to social capital.2 Individuals from comparable communities in 
Perth (Australia), and Portland, Nashville and San Diego (USA) were surveyed on a number of social capital 
determinants, including general helpfulness, friendliness, trust, reciprocity and civic engagement of people in their 
community. The results showed that people with pets had more social capital than those without. Those with 
dogs had even greater social capital and those who walked their dogs had even
more still (Diagram 1).
The authors suggest that their results reflect the idea that people with pets are deemed more trustworthy. And 
trust is a key driver of social capital. Previous observational studies have also shown that people with pets 
perceive others as more trustworthy.2
Physiologically, these perceptions could be the result of oxytocin production, which is known to increase feelings 
of trust. Dog owners experience increased levels of oxytocin when interacting with their pooches and the authors 
conject that the same response occurs when interacting with any companion animal (Diagram 2).
The positive effect of companion animals in other facets of human life has also been explored, with studies 
showing pets can help individuals with mental illness3 and autism4, and can also help develop social skills, self-
esteem and curb loneliness in children.5
Collectively, this bank of research builds a strong case for more pet-friendly cities and societies. Given the 
growing trend towards high-density apartment living in Australia, now is the time for town planners and 
governments to develop strategies and policies to ensure our pets remain an integral part of our lives.
Nidhi Sodhi
Science Writer
References
1. Claridge T. Benefits and importance of social capital.
www.socialcapitalresearch.com/literature/theory/benefits.html. Accessed 2 August 2017. 
2. Wood L, Martin K, Christian H et al. Social capital and pet ownership: a tale of four cities. SSM Population 
Health 
2017;3:442–447.
3. Brooks H, Rushton L, Walker S et al. Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-
management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC 
Psychiatry 
2016;16:409.
4. O'Haire ME, McKenzie SJ, Beck AM et al. Animals may act as social buffers: skin conductance arousal in 
children with autism spectrum disorder in a social context. Dev Psychobiol 2015;57:584–595.
5. Purewal R, Christley R, Kordas K et al. Companion animals and child/adolescent development: a systematic 
review of the evidence.Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017;14:234.
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