Exploring Risk Propensity through Pet-Attachment Diversity in Natural Hazard Contexts

Joshua Trigg1, Kirrilly Thompson1, Bradley Smith1, & Pauleen Bennett2

1CQ University, Appleton Institute
2La Trobe University, Department of Psychology

This review examines the perceptual and behavioural influences that pet-attachment has on the ways in which owners view risk, appraise threat, and respond to environmental hazards. Understanding how human-companion animal relationships function in this context has profound implications for the welfare of both people and their animals. Despite originating from human-attachment models, current perspectives on relationships with companion animals commonly adopt a unidimensional view of pet-attachment as a singular bond. This bypasses important aspects of attachment, ignoring the diversity evident in these relationships and, consequently, differences in risk processes. We argue that by adopting a pet-attachment 'communities' model that more closely approximates human-attachment theory, a nuanced understanding of perceptual and behavioural risk propensities that distinguishes between different types of 'stronger' and 'weaker' or insecure attachments can be achieved. We consider how research regarding pet- and human-attachment can be used to identify potential communities of the pet-attached. A community perspective upon pet-owner risk propensity will contribute to a social-ecological understanding of these relationships as potential protective factors when confronting environmental threats. Finally, we propose that future research relating to pet-attachment can benefit from current human-attachment findings regarding the wider social nature of attachment relationships.

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Keywords: attachment, companion animals, pet attachment, risk perception
Posted in 2016, Volume 4, No. 1