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Animal Farm Foundation has announced the launch of Pets Together, a free virtual program that allows those who are socially isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic to enjoy friendly interaction with pets (including dogs, cats, goats, horses, and other critters) and people. The goal of the program is to increase social connection and mitigate the loneliness that is a painful aspect of the pandemic.
Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing dogs and people together to end discrimination. Using live video-conferencing platforms (Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts), the AFF team will schedule real-time visits where people can watch the animals and participate in friendly conversations with those who care for them. Notably, the Pets Together model greatly expands access to pet visits that have traditionally been reserved for face-to-face interactions for people living in group settings (such as nursing homes and hospitals) through formal therapy animal programs. The video chats are also available to doctors, nurses, and other health professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.
“One of the many effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is social isolation and loneliness, which were already highly prevalent before the crisis” said Stacey Coleman, Executive Director of Animal Farm Foundation. “We designed Pets Together to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances by tapping into the power of pets to spread joy and bring people together.”
Even before the pandemic, social isolation was a public health threat negatively impacting the wellbeing of many individuals, including but not limited to older adults. Now, with the mandate to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, so many more people are at risk for social isolation—further threatening physical as well as mental health.
Defined as a state in which the individual lacks a sense of belonging socially and engagement with others, social isolation can result in a 29% increased risk of mortality over time, researchers have found. In fact, social isolation is comparable with other well-established risk factors such as poor access to health care, exposure to environmental hazards, injury and violence, obesity and physical inactivity, substance misuse and mental health disorders.
Kim Wolf, Master of Public Health and Master of Social Work Candidate at the University of Georgia, worked with AFF to create the innovative Pets Together Program. She explains, “Pets bring us comfort during times of distress, but not everyone is in a position to have one. I can’t imagine going through this pandemic without my pets, so I wanted to share them with others. Pets Together is a model that brings joy and comfort to those who are feeling socially isolated and lonely. We are all in this together, even the pets!”
For more information about the Pets Together Program, or to learn how to participate, please visit www.petstogether.org
About Animal Farm Foundation:
Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) brings dogs and people together to end discrimination. As a 501(c)3, AFF creates positive change for dogs, people, and communities through our service dog program, PAWS prison program, and by funding the training of K9 detection dogs. We provide lawmakers and policymakers with the information they need to create non-discriminatory laws and policies. If necessary, we work within the legal system to end breed-specific discrimination. We also consult with and offer free resources to animal welfare workers and community advocates. www.animalfarmfoundation.org