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The Human-Animal Bond

Attachment, Devotion, Value, Concern & Responsibility

By Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP

The Human-Animal Bond (HAB) may be defined as the relationship between people, animals and their environment. The HAB may exclusively refer to our relationship with companion animals. But the HAB is often expanded to include relationships with all animals. This expansion of the HAB opens a vast range of considerations that cause confusion and conflicts of interest. I am proposing a Universal HAB Scale for the profession to provide a summation of how the animal kingdom is regarded based on five scores: attachment, devotion, value, concern and responsibility. This synopsis is a stark reminder that we must restore man’s ancient contract with animals as the good shepherd. This Universal HAB Scale is offered as an assessment tool to help animal caregivers as they encounter intrinsic bioethical considerations, decision making dilemmas and ethical analysis and discussions regarding all creatures great and small.

Students and teachers of animal ethics are challenged without having a clear concept or definition of the degrees or levels of the human-companion animal bond and the more expansive HAB. This universal HAB Scale serves to differentiate levels of the HAB as various people relate to animal(s). As healers, veterinarians face bioethical considerations and decision making dilemmas with clients who are highly bonded to their companion animals. The power of the companion HAB evolved small animal veterinary medicine into offering excellent facilities, specialties and procedures that currently parallel the pediatrician model. In stark contrast, all animal caregivers face ethical distress with the nonchalant attitude of those who view their animals as disposable property.

Encroachment, extinction, global animal welfare, oceanography, ecology, conservation, pollution control, public health, disaster response and disease control are all societal responsibilities that involve the expertise of veterinarians in the One Medicine model. The HAB scale reminds society that responsibility for the animal kingdom is upon all of us either directly or indirectly. Responsible HAB awareness might be an epiphany for millions and inspire people to modify wasteful behaviors to favor sustainable living so that future generations of man and animals can simply live on the planet.

A veterinarian’s normative ethics should remain steadfast within the HAB despite the inconsistency and fickleness of animal ownership or the adverse situation that animals encounter in the environment. This is because one’s search for right and wrong for justice and truth prevails with the force of character.

HAB Scale

Learn More:

American Veterinary Medical Association
Perdue University School of Veterinary Medicine
Pet Partners