LIU student’s research shows pets improve outlook for homeless

April 25, 2013 From LIU-Brooklyn
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Emma Newton knows her purpose in life.

The 21-year-old LIU Global senior wants to create global awareness about the link between animal and human welfare.

“The world we live in is like a giant web,” said the Portland, Ore. native, who graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in global studies. “You pull on one string, and it will have an effect half a world away. The human-animal relationship epitomizes this, and I want to explore how animals fit into our emotional and physical health.”

Newton’s passion for her subject has been solidified through her education at LIU Global, a leader in international experiential learning. Through her travels across the globe with the college, she has focused her research on pet owners who are rendered homeless by economics, natural disaster and domestic violence.

“In any emergency in which evacuation is required, it has been found that people who are separated from their pets are more traumatized,” Newton said. “Keeping them together is an important part of the healing process.”

During the fall semester, she conducted a study of displaced people and their companion animals at Portland Animal Welfare Team (PAW Team), a non-profit organization that provides free services to homeless pets. Through fieldwork, surveys and observation of PAW Team clientele, Newton found that when a pet is healthy, its owner reported higher satisfaction with their stress levels, in employment and with their situation living at a shelter.

“What makes a family? Companion animals may be considered part of the family socially, but they are not considered so legally,” she said. ”Social services aren’t available to the homeless with pets. There needs to be better understanding and communication between animal welfare and social service organizations.”

Newton, interning this semester at the Staten Island Zoo, will present her findings at the International Society for Anthrozoology Conference in Chicago in July. After graduation, she will continue her research at PAW Team, while pursuing a master’s program in Anthrozoology at Canisius College, with the eventual goal of veterinary school.

At LIU Global, Newton has amassed extensive global experience working with homeless animals. As a research volunteer with Dharmsala Dog Rescue in India, she took part in animal birth control and rabies vaccination programs for stray dogs. In an animal sanctuary in Cusco, Peru, she helped care for endangered, trafficked wild animals, such as pumas, condors and macaws. She volunteered with the Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai, Thailand, and Lanna Dog Welfare. She now co-curates an exhibit on the homeless and their companion animals at the National Museum of Animals and Society in Los Angeles, entitled “My Dog is My Home.”

At LIU, Newton is the recipient of LIU’s Morris Mitchell Scholarship and the Dean’s Lead-Serve Scholarship for outstanding leadership and service experience. For Newton, her ultimate goal is to help people to understand that “the success of animals and humans is dependent on the success of each. We can’t separate one from the other.”

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