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Kathleen C. Gerbasi

Special Topics in Psychology

Human-Animal Relations


PSY 280

Psychology Department

Niagara County Community College


Prerequisite:  Introduction to Psychology,

                      or Co-requisite of Animal Behavior,

                      or Permission of the Instructor

Instructor:  Kathy Gerbasi, Ph.D.

Credits:  3 Credit Hours, M, W, F 1pm room E-118

Required and suggested reading and viewing: see separate document


Course Description:

               Human-Animal Relations, PSY 280, will introduce  students to the interdisciplinary field of Anthrozoology.  Anthrozoology is the study of  the many different ways in which human and non-human animals relate to each other and impact each other’s lives.  Since this is a psychology course, the main focus of the course will be Anthrozoology from the psychological perspective, however we will also touch on other academic fields in addition to psychology.  Topics covered in this course represent an overview of current issues in Human-Animal Studies. This includes human’s  relationships with pets, psychological and physiological benefits of companion animals, concern for animal rights and animal welfare, the link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans,  individual differences in people’s relationships with animals (including sex differences), a study of  the similarities and differences between human and non-human animals especially as related to language, communication, cognition, and problem solving,  and a review of moral and ethical concerns about eating meat, wearing fur, and the use of animals for research and entertainment.  In addition, each student will be required to complete a course project in which he or she fully explores an animal species and the ways in which that species and human animals interact and impact each other.  The species will be of the student’s choice, but students will be required to select a species other than Canis  familiaris (domestic dog ) or Felis domesticus (domestic cat).

               The course materials will be presented by reading, activities in class, discussion, video, lecture, and guest lecture.  In addition, a field trip to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY is scheduled for Thursday, September 26.  (Transportation by school van will be provided. Professor Riniolo from the Animal Management Program will drive one van and I will drive the other.  Please make every effort to arrange your work and / or school schedule to attend.  We will leave school in the morning and return late afternoon.)


Guest Lecturers:  Currently four guest lecturers are planned for the course. 

            Eva Fuchwans, M.D.:  Dr. Eva from Vienna, Austria is the medical director of a 130 bed geriatric unit, which is totally immersed in Animal Assisted Therapy.  She will be presenting slides and discussing

her program and its benefits to her patients.  Her presentation will be Monday, October 7.

            BoB the DoG:  BoB is the Western New York Nursing Home Volunteer of the Year (along with his chauffeur, me).  BoB will be visiting us in conjunction with his appearance in PSY 110,  probably early October.  BoB is an aging golden retriever of the very large variety.  He will demonstrate the activities that he does at the nursing home.  His  presentation will be in conjunction with the part of the Phenomenon video on the elderly, pets, and depression.

            Mr. Jerry Krebs:  Mr. Krebs is a retired Niagara County Community College Geography Instructor who has traveled extensively and will be presenting slides and a discussion of Rain Forest Habitat.  He will help us explore the impact of habitat destruction on rain forest animals.  We will be viewing the video, Urban Elephant, prior to his visit so that we can compare the natural with the captive habitats.  Mr. Krebs is tentatively scheduled for late October or early November.

            Professor Phil Haseley:  Dr. Haseley, from our Anthropology Department, will be joining us to discuss horse evolution and horse-human relations.


Course Format:


Lecture, guest lecture, class discussion, demonstrations and activities in class, journaling, reading and writing assignments,  audio and video presentations, field trip, student reports and presentations.


Course Requirements:


Class participation, class attendance and a variety of written assignments and /or tests including the species project.

Assignments: All assignments not done in class should be typed, with the exception of the question cards (see below).  Under no circumstances should you copy any part of work that you did not write and present it as your own.  That will result in an immediate failing grade for the course.  Appropriate use of quotation marks and reference citations  (APA format preferred) is required.  This requirement applies to materials from all sources, print and electronic included.


Question Cards: You  will submit questions/comments for discussion on 3x5 cards when each reading assignment is due.  The purpose of the cards will be to indicate concepts and ideas that you wish to discuss and/ or things that are unclear which you need to have explained.  You may also use this to record your responses to and ideas generated by the readings.  Cards will be turned in at the beginning of each class and will used to guide our discussion of the material.


First  Written Assignment:  Discuss your relationship with a favorite animal.  Be sure to include how the animal feels about this relationship and how you know this!


Course Project:  Focus on any species (other than dog or cat) and explore and present the nature of human-animal relations for that species. You will write a paper and prepare a presentation for the class on this species.  You should find, evaluate and present  scholarly and popular print and internet resources regarding this species and its relationships with human animals.  The results of these student projects will

be used to build a web site of links and the find and link resources our library has to this web site.


Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course the student will be able to:



·       Relate the historical and philosophical foundations of Human-Animal Relations;

·       Understand the theoretical foundations of Human-Animal relationships;

·       Identify cultural  and individual differences in Human- Animal Relations;

·       Recognize the variety of situations in which animals may enhance  and promote human  health and well-being;

·       Relate the benefits that humans and animals can gain by associating  positively with each other;

·       Understand the cognitive ways in which human and non-human animals are similar and different;

·       Know the difference between Animal Welfare and Animal Rights;

·       Recognize the ways in which humans influence animal welfare (both negatively and positively);

·       Know where and how to search for scientific literature in the field of human-animal relations;

·       Apply critical and scientific reasoning and evaluation to research findings in the field of human-animal relations.



·       Understand the attachment and emotions between people across the life span and animals;

·       Perceive the multidisciplinary nature of the field of Anthrozoology;

·       Recognize and appreciate the difference between scientific and non-scientific information;

·       Acknowledge the need for empirical research;

·       Understand and evaluate Morgan’s Canon;

·       Develop an appreciation for the many varied species (in addition to dogs and cats ) with which humans have a variety of different relationships;

·       Appreciate the social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs of a variety of species of animals;

·       Acknowledge and understand the ethical issues surrounding human relationships with non-human animals.


Assessment of Students:

Class participation (20%), written homework assignments including question cards (20%), species review project and presentation (20%), take home mid-term (20%) and final examination (20%).

Specific instructions will be given for each assignment.


Content Contents

A.  Brief overview of philosophical factors influencing human-animal relations

            1. Anthropocentrism: Aristotle, Descartes

            2. Anthropomorphism

            3. Speciesism


B. Theories of why humans form relationships with animals

            1. Transitional object

            2. Neurobiological effects

            3.  Reinforcement and Classical Conditioning

            4. Social lubricant

            5. Attachment

            6. Play

            7. Neoteny

            8. Biophilia Hypothesis

            9. Evolution


C. Benefits of Association with Animals

            1. Physical/Medical Health Benefits of Animals 

                        a. exercise

                        b. fewer doctor visits

                        c. less medication

                        d. less illness

            2. Psychological Benefits of Animals

                        a. companionship

                        b. support

                        c. motivation

            3. Animal Assisted Therapy

            4. Humane Education

                        a. empathy for animals

                        b. empathy for humans


D. Positive and Negative Roles of Animals Through the Human Lifespan

            1. Special relationships with

                        a. children

                        b. adolescents

                        c. adults

                        d. elderly

                        e. males vs. females

            2. Grief and pet loss

            3. The Link…the relationship between violence to animals and violence to humans.


E. In what psychological ways are human and non-human animals similar and different?

            1. Morgan’s Canon

            2. Cognitive Ethology

                        a. Tool use

                        b. Communication

                        c. Self-recognition

                        d. Deception

                        e. Language

                        f. Culture

                        g. Knowledge of the physical world (violation of expectation)

                        h. Theory of mind


F. Ethical Issues for human-animal relationships as applied to Pets, Farm Animals, Wild Animals in Captivity, and Animals Used for Research, Entertainment, and Education

            1. Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare

            2. Surplus Pets

            3. Euthanasia

            4. Laboratory Animals/research animals

                        a. alternatives to animal use

            5. Retirement for Laboratory Animals

            6. Animals for entertainment: circus, zoo, rodeo, media

            7. Animals as food

            8. Animals as fur

            9. General questions of animal health and well-being:

                        a. Is the animal enjoying itself?

                        b. Are the animal’s physical needs being met?

                        c. Are the animal’s social and emotional needs being met?

                        d. Are the animal’s intellectual needs being met?

                        e. Who is responsible for this animal?

G. How to locate and critically evaluate research Human-Animal Relations

            1. Library searches on-line

                        a. PubMed

                        b. Infotrac, Wilson Web, Science Direct

                        c. APA’s PsycInfo

                        d. and other academic web resources

            2. Problems associated with Human-Animal Relations research studies

                        a. reliability

                        b. validity

                        c. demand characteristics

                        d. experimenter bias

                        e. experimenter expectancy

                        f. lack of double blind design

                        g. lack of random assignment

                        h. lack of random selection


Schedule of Readings and Assignments -- Fall 2002

Please pay close attention to this…because there is no text book we will have to jump around from book to book in order to cover the topics.  Also note some of the readings will be on-line either through the NCCC library access or various Websites. We will cover how to access this material in our  library computer workshop  Monday, September 9. All listed readings  are to be read prior to attending class that day.  The book, Strolling with our Kin is a kind of primer/dictionary resource for key terms and concepts. You should use this book to look up terms that you are unfamiliar with. We will assign sections of it in conjunction with other reading assignments as well.

This is a tentative schedule  for  first couple of weeks as well as a list of major due dates…  a final version of the course reading assignments will be distributed in the next week or so.  Any other  changes to the schedule will be announced in class…you should be there!


Sept 4  General introduction and review of course outline, requirements, procedures and policies.

Sept 6  READ Serpell, Both prefaces and Chapter one: paradox of human-animal relations

            Pets vs. food, speciesism, read Bekoff, pages 25-27.

Sept 9 Library workshop day, meet at circulation desk in the library promptly at 1 pm. We will proceed to library computer area for workshop.  This is a crucial day for learning to access readings and beginning research on your project. Everyone in class will do a different species, species approved on a first request basis.

Sept 11 Video segments from 9-11-01 Animal Planet’s  Animal Precinct Special on Human-animal bond in class. Read/Discuss class Handouts:  HSUS  Animal Disaster Preparedness.

Sept 13  READ Attitudes toward Animals: Species Ratings at

 Personal Animal Relationship Assignment  Due.  We will discuss in class related to speciesism.

Sept 16  READ Serpell Chapter 2, Melson Chapter 2

Sept 18

Sept 20 READ Serpell Chapter 3

Sept 23

Sept25  READ Serpell, Chapter 4

Sept 26 Thursday All Day  Field Trip to Farm Sanctuary (strongly suggested but not required attendance)

Sept 27 

Sept 30  Professor Haseley guest speaker, the evolution of the horse and horse-human relations

READ,   AABS, Hausberger and Muller AABS :Volume 76, Issue 4:  Pages 339-344

Oct 2  Library workshop Day,  meet at circulation desk 1 pm promptly, be prepared to search for a species, Oct 4  Go to the Library, go on-line and decide on a species for your project, prepare one page  typed proposal due 10-7( Monday)  what species and why…what do you hope to accomplish?  (I will away that day  making a presentation at a conference in Michigan).

Oct 7 Guest Speaker, Dr. Eva Fuchswans from Vienna, Austria speaking on Animal-Assisted Therapy        for the Elderly and human-animal relations.

            READ, Chapter 6 Serpell, Chapter 5 Melson

Extra info: animal images in religion

            St Guinefort

Oct 9 Project Proposal due…what species are you doing and where are your resources…one page summary  -- reminder, everyone in class will do a different species, species approved on a first request basis.

Oct 11 Mid Term Take home distributed

Oct 14  Monday, No School

Oct 21 Mid term take home due in class.

Nov 4 Project Draft Due in class…must contain a minimum of 10 web and 10 print resources on ’s  human-animal relations in your species.

Nov 11 Monday, No school

Nov 27  Paper version of project due in class, Take home final distributed

Nov 29 Friday, No School

Dec 9  Take home final due in class.

Dec 13, last day of class

Finals week: Oral presentation of species project. Each student wil make a 5 minute presentation and there will time for questions on each presentation.


Class Rules…

No plagiarism, any sentences, phrases etc copied from others must be appropriately cited. Giving and receiving help that is in appropriate will result in a failing grade as per the college’s rules on academic honesty.

Arrive on time, if you must leave early sit near the door.  Habitual early departures and late arrivals are rude and disruptive.  In addition a considerable part of your grade is participation in class discussions and activities (20%) if you are not present your grade will reflect your absence.  In addition small assignments and the course cards will be collected in class and count for your grade. Again absences will hurt.

All work except for class cards and in class assignments must be typed.

All work must be turned in on or before the due date, in class.

No work is accepted in the mailbox, attached to my door or any other creative means you may imagine and or implement. I will throw work away that does not arrive at class and either on the correct date or early.  If you are going to miss a class you may turn in an assignment early. You may send in work with another student whom you trust to turn it in.  I bear no responsibility for  such arrangements.

Respect  we must all show respect for each other’s points of view. We do not have to agree but we must behave appropriately.


Course points…

The total course is worth 1000 points


These points will be earned as follows:

Participation                                                      100

In class activities/assignments                          100

Class  question cards                                        100 

Home work ( a variety of small assignments)    100 

Take home mid term                                          200

Take home final                                                 200

Species Project                                                  150 written project

                                                                            50 project presentation    




B = 800-899





Extra credit 25 points can be earned by visiting my office during office hours or by appointment to discuss / research something of interest that related to the class.  Extra credit expires Wed Nov 27 at 6pm.


PSY 280 Readings

Required Texts:

In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships. James Serpell. New York. Cambridge University Press, 1996.


Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees. Roger Fouts with Stephen Tukel Mills.  New York, Avon Books, 1997.


Strolling with Our Kin: Speaking for and Respecting Voiceless Animals. Marc Bekoff.  New York. Lantern Books, 2000.


Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. Gail Melson. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press, 2001.


Optional Text:  (on reserve in the library)

Companion Animals & Us.  Podberscek, Anthony,  Paul, Elizabeth and Serpell, James, editors. Cambridge, England.  Cambridge University Press, 2000.


Required Viewing and Listening:  (in-class presentations of the following-- in part or whole):

Animal Einstein, Scientific American Frontiers, PBS.

Beyond Violence, Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PSYETA).

Breaking the Cycles of Violence, Latham Foundation.

Chimps R Us, Scientific American Frontiers, PBS.

Conversation with Koko, Nature Documentary

Gorillas: Primal Contact, A&E Home Video.

Kids and Animals: A Healing Partnership, AxisGears.

New Zoo, Scientific American Frontiers, PBS.

Pet Tech, Scientific American Frontiers, PBS.

Phenomenon,  Latham Foundation.

Rats, Rights and Research: A Debate on Animal Rights, Justice Talking: 2/5/2001, NPR,             Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Urban Elephant, Nature Documentary.


Additional Readings and Resources: Some will be required and others will be optional or useful for species projects. (See course schedule for details.) These are scholarly (journal) articles, some will be distributed in class and others are electronically available.  These will be accessible from your home if you have internet access and also from the school library.  You must have an activated library card to access some of the material.  These readings have various internet locations (web addresses), including the college on-line library, PSYETA’s website for Society & Animals.  The instructions to access readings will be provided in our computer workshop class.


Key: AABS is Applied Animal Behavior Science available at Science Direct

          JAAWS  is Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science

         S&A is Society and Animals available at

(All on-line citations are copied and pasted just as they appear on-line and in the order they appear on the website.)


The following are  AABS on-line through the NCCC library

Volume 76, Issue 4:

            A brief note on some possible factors involved in the reactions of horses to humans, Pages 339-344 ,M. Hausberger and C. Muller

Volume 75, Issue 2:

            An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dogЇhuman relationship, Pages 161-176 , Nicola J. Rooney and John W. S. Bradshaw

Volume 74, Issue 3

            Can cows discriminate people by their faces?, Pages 175-189
Pierre Rybarczyk, Yuki Koba, Jeff Rushen, Hajime Tanida and Anne Marie de Passillй

Volume 74, Issue 1:

            Demographic and aggressive characteristics of dogs in a general veterinary caseload, Pages 15-28, N. C. Guy, U. A. Luescher, S. E. Dohoo, E. Spangler, J. B. Miller, I. R. Dohoo and L. A. Bate

            Risk factors for dog bites to owners in a general veterinary caseload, Pages 29-42
N. C. Guy, U. A. Luescher, S. E. Dohoo, E. Spangler, J. B. Miller, I. R. Dohoo and L. A. Bate
            A case series of biting dogs: characteristics of the dogs, their behaviour, and their victims, Pages 43-57 , N. C. Guy, U. A. Luescher, S. E. Dohoo, E. Spangler, J. B. Miller, I. R. Dohoo and L. A. Bate

            Co-operative interactions between blind persons and their dogs, Pages 59-80
Sz. Naderi, Б. Miklуsi, A. Dуka and V. Csznyi

Volume 73, Issue 1:
            How do miniature pigs discriminate between people?; Discrimination between people wearing coveralls of the same colour, Pages 45-58 , Y. Koba and H. Tanida
Volume 69, Issue 1:
            Prevalence of behaviour problems reported by owners of dogs purchased from an animal rescue shelter, Pages 55-65, Deborah L. Wells and Peter G. Hepper

Volume 66, Issue 3:
            A comparison of dogЇdog and dogЇhuman play behaviour, Pages 235-248
Nicola J. Rooney, John W. S. Bradshaw and Ian H. Robinson

Volume 66, Issues 1-2:
            Modifying stockperson attitudes and behaviour towards pigs at a large commercial farm, Pages 11-20 , G. J. Coleman, P. H. Hemsworth, M. Hay and M. Cox

Volume 65, Issue 1:
            Dairy cows' use of colour cues to discriminate between people, Pages 1-11
L. Munksgaard, A. M. de Passillй, J. Rushen and J. Ladewig

            A note on the relationship between the behavioural response of lactating sows to humans and the survival of their piglets, Pages 43-52, P. H. Hemsworth, V. Pedersen, M. Cox, G. M. Cronin and G. J. Coleman

Volume 58, Issues 1-2:
            Predicting stockperson behaviour towards pigs from attitudinal and job-related variables and empathy, Pages 63-75 , G. J. Coleman, P. H. Hemsworth and M. Hay

            Describing categories of temperament in potential guide dogs for the blind, Pages 163-178, Julie A. Murphy

            Behaviour test for eight-week old puppies inheritabilities of tested behaviour traits and its correspondence to later behaviour, Pages 151-162. Erik Wilsson and Per-Erik Sundgren


From S & A online at

Lyle Munro. Caring about Blood, Flesh, and Pain: Women’s Standing in the Animal Protection Movement

Clifton P. Flynn.  Battered Women and Their Animal Companions: Symbolic Interaction Between Human and Nonhuman Animals

Paul Morris, Margaret Fidler & Alan Costall.  Beyond Anecdotes: An Empirical Study of "Anthropomorphism"

Corwin R. Kruse.  Gender, Views of Nature, and Support for Animal Rights

Carol D. Raupp .   Treasuring, Trashing or Terrorizing: Adult Outcomes of Childhood Socialization with Animals

Robert W. Mitchell and Elizabeth Edmonson .  Functions of Repetitive Talk to Dogs during Play: Control, Conversation, or Planning?

Stephanie S. Frommer1 & Arnold Arluke .  Loving Them to Death: Blame-Displacing Strategies of Animal Shelter Workers and Surrenderers

R. Claire Budge, J. Spicer, B. Jones & R. St. George .  Health Correlates of Compatibility and Attachment in Human-Companion Animal Relationships

Chris Philo & Jennifer Welch .  Through the Geographical Looking Glass: Space, Place, and Society-Animal Relations

Alan Costall .    Lloyd Morgan, and the Rise and Fall of "Animal Psychology"

Frank R. Ascione, Claudia V. Weber & David S. Wood .  Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey of Shelters for Women who are Battered

Arnold Arluke & Randall Lockwood .  Understanding Cruelty to Animals

Steve Mathews & Harold A. Herzog, Jr.  Personality and Attitudes toward the Treatment of Animals

Jennifer R. Welch , Andrea Gullo & Unna Lassiter .  Changing Attitudes toward California Cougars

Deborah L. Wells & Peter G. Hepper .  Pet Ownership and Adults' Views on the Use of Animals

Debra Lynn Stephens & Ronald Paul Hill .  The Dispossession of Animal Companions: A Humanistic and Consumption Perspective

Darcy Nickell & Harold A. Herzog, Jr. Ethical Ideology and Moral Persuasion: Personal Moral Philosophy, Gender, and Judgments of Pro- and Anti-Animal Research Propaganda

Linda K. Pifer .  Exploring the Gender Gap in Young Adults' Attitudes about Animal Research

Janis Wiley Driscoll .  Attitudes toward Animals: Species Ratings

Elizabeth S. Paul.   Us and Them: Scientists' and Animal Rights Campaigners' Views of the Animal Experimentation Debate

Lynda Birke & Jane Smith .  Animals in Experimental Reports: The Rhetoric of Science

David A. Nibert .  Animal Rights and Human Social Issues

Linda Pifer, Kinya Shimizu, & Ralph Pifer. Public Attitudes Toward Animal Research: Some International Comparisons

John Broida, Leanne Tingley, Robert Kimball & Joseph Miele .  Personality Differences between Pro- and Anti-vivisectionists

D. W. Rajecki, Jeffrey Lee Rasmussen & Heather D. Craft .  Labels and the Treatment of Animals: Archival and Experimental Cases

Mary T. Phillips.  Savages, Drunks, and Lab Animals: The Researcher's Perception of Pain

Adelma M. Hills & Edith Cowan.   The Motivational Bases of Attitudes Toward Animals

(gender as variable)


The following will be distributed in class:


Anderson, Roland C. & Wood, James B.  2001. Enrichment for Giant Pacific Octopuses: Happy as a Clam?  JAAWS 4(2), 157-168.


Fouts, Roger S. 1998. On the Psychological Well-Being of Chimpanzees. JAAWS, 1(1), 65-73.


Harbolt, Tami & Ward, Tamara H.  2001. Teaming Incarcerated Youth with Shelter Dogs for a Second Chance. Society & Animals, 9(2), 177-182.


Noon, Carole.  1999. Chimpanzees and Retirement.  JAAWS, 2(2),141-146.


Reinhardt, Viktor & Rossell, Matt. 2001. Self-biting in Caged Macaques: Cause, Effect and Treatment. JAAWS, 4(4), 285-294.


Salman, M. D., New, John G., Jr. , Scarlett, Janet M.,  Kass, Philip H., Ruch-Gallie, Rebecca & Hetts, Suzanne. 1998. Human and Animal Factors Related to Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States. JAAWS, 1(3), 207-226.


Weir, Alex A. S., Chappell, Jackie & Kacelnik, Alex. 2002. Shaping of Hooks in New Caledonian Crows, Science, 297, 981  (


Wenstrup, John & Dowidchuk, Alexis. 1999. Pet Overpopulation: Data and Measurement Issues In Shelters.  JAAWS, 2(4), 303-319.

Whiten, A.,  Goodall, J.,  McGrew, W. C., Nishida, T.,  Reynolds, V.,  Sugiyama, Y. Tutin, C. E. G.,  Wrangham R. . & Boesch. C.  1999. Cultures in Chimpanzees.  Nature, 399, 682-685 (from website at  ).



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