On May 8, Zoetis joined the American Humane Association (AHA), researchers, families, and country-music star Naomi Judd for a special briefing before Congress about a study investigating the benefits that therapy dogs may have in children undergoing treatment for cancer. This groundbreaking research, sponsored by Zoetis with matching funds from the Pfizer Foundation, is the first scientific effort to document the positive effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) in helping pediatric cancer patients and their families.

“I was a nurse before I became a singer and I saw how dogs could sense illness far ahead of medical diagnosis,” said country music star Naomi Judd, who spoke on behalf of the study at the briefing. “I’ve seen with my own eyes how the power of the human-animal bond can help patients muster the life force they need to overcome anxiety, depression, and fear, and begin to heal.” 

Study Will Answer How Human – Animal Bond Can Aid Children Fighting Cancer 

According to the AHA, each year in the United States, nearly 13,000 children are newly diagnosed with cancer and more than 40,000 are in treatment at any given time. Three years ago, the AHA began the Canines and Childhood Cancer (CCC) Study to rigorously measure the well-being effects of AAT for children with cancer, their parents/guardians, and the therapy dogs who visit them.

“AAT is an accessible and affordable adjunctive treatment option that holds promise for populations from all ages and walks of life, including children who often have a natural affinity for animals,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association, in a statement. “The documented benefits of AAT include: relaxation, physical exercise, unconditional support, improved social skills, enhanced self-confidence, and decreased loneliness and depression.”

The study, which is currently in its final stage, includes a comprehensive needs assessment (Stage I), a six-month pilot study (Stage II), and a full clinical trial (Stage III). Five hospital sites in the U.S. will contribute data over 12+ months, with findings being distributed in 2015.

Zoetis Committed to Documenting Value of Assisted Animal in Cancer Treatment

 “The CCC study has far-reaching implications for millions of children around the world who may be diagnosed with cancer, said Clint Lewis, Executive Vice President and President, U.S. of Zoetis. “While childhood cancer research has come a long way, the possibility of a completely non-invasive and altogether more compassionate treatment could do wonders to improve the quality of life during the treatment process and potentially aid in long-term recovery.”

Kathy Mitchell, Director of Government Relations at Zoetis who spoke at the briefing, highlighted that people inherently depend on companion animals for companionship, comfort, and service.

“A growing body of literature is pointing to the many benefits that people derive from spending time with their pets. Zoetis understands this bond and recognizes that scientific evidence is needed to confirm anecdotal evidence. We are pleased to support research such as the CCC study that aims to scientifically measure the well-being effects of animal assisted therapy for children with cancer,” said Mitchell. 

For the latest information about the Canines and Childhood Cancer Study, visit the American Humane Association website.