Talk to any pet owner and you are bound to invoke stories about the joy and companionship of having a pet. But evidence is mounting that the effect of pets extends beyond their owners and can help strengthen the social fabric of local neighbourhoods. Now a cross-national study involving Perth, Australia, and three US cities has lent weight to the observation that pets help build social capital.
This is not a frivolous notion, given the erosion of sense of community is often lamented. As Hugh Mackay recently observed, not knowing our neighbours has become a sad cliché of contemporary urban life