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SECTION ONE – Building Community

A good sense of community is an aspiration most people have for their neighbourhoods and is not just something associated with a “warm fuzzy feeling”.

Instead, sense of community has been shown to influence perceptions of community safety, neighbourhood attachment, community involvement, and improved community problem coping skills.(22)

Until recently, the role of pets in building a sense of community has gone relatively unnoticed in the scientific literature, although it is often recognised anecdotally.

Recent research however, demonstrates the role that pets can play in building a strong sense of community and developing active social capital; two cornerstones vital to any vibrant, healthy community.

In a recent Australian study, pet owners scored more highly on the social capital scale than those that did not. Furthermore, the research went on to show that pet ownership was positively associated with social interactions, favour exchanges, community involvement and increased feelings of neighbourhood friendliness and sense of community;(18) attributes not to be sneezed at.

With around 63% of Australians owning a pet, these benefits, when aggregated across the whole community, are of significant interest to local Councils and others concerned with building healthier, happier neighbourhoods. In addition, these benefits create a ripple effect that extends beyond pet owners into the broader community, with pets helping to smooth the way for social interaction and general ‘out and about-ness’.

Both anecdote and research suggests that pets are well recognised ice-breakers. Dogs, for example, can stimulate conversation and contact between strangers(23-25) and trigger positive social interaction.(26)

Dog walkers are also more likely to experience social contact and conversation than those that walk alone.(23) Similar findings have been demonstrated in an Australian study where half of all dog owners indicated that they had come to know locals in their suburb as a result of their dog.(18)

Even non pet owners recognise the value of pets as social ice-breakers, be it in their experience of speaking to dog walkers passing by their home, with neighbours who own a pet, or with dog owners at the local park.(19)

Residents or neighbours chatting to each other as a result of a pet is not just a social nicety. Such community-based interactions between people have the very real potential to break down the barriers and stereotypes that separate us from ‘others’ while playing an important role in building trust and a deep sense of community at the neighbourhood level.

The following case studies are examples of pets assisting in building community via informal and formal groups, partnerships, events and online networks.

 

Building Community Case Studies
Community comes together and educates through family fun activity
Dog park interaction creates community links
Local support networks, activities and advice developed online
An opportunity for community joy and connectedness through Blessing of the
Animals
Community connections created through local parties for owners and pets

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