Special Report: Why Do Some People Love Pets and Not Others?

Special Report: Why do some people love pets and not others?
Posted at 1:17 AM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 05:07:06-05

(WWSB) -- Human/animal relationships date back to the beginning of civilization and have been documented in almost every ancient culture. The bond only grew with the domestication of animals into pets, and now the majority of us have at least one.

According to the American Pet Products Association's 2015-2016 survey, 65 percent of U.S. households own a pet. That's up from 56 percent in 1988 when the survey was first taken.

But not everyone is a pet lover, in fact, some feel quite the opposite, including Sarasota resident Michael Richker. 

"I'm just not pet friendly, Richker said. "They like me!"

Richker is enjoying retirement on the Suncoast, but unlike many of his fellow empty nesters, it doesn't include pet ownership.

"When I walk in the morning, the neighbors, they all have dogs and the dog comes up and jumps on my leg," Richker said. "I say hello and move along, that's as far as it goes."

Richker doesn't dislike animals. He had dogs growing up, his son now has two dogs and even his partner Joan has affection for the canine species. He doesn't really know why he's not a pet lover.

"I really don't know," Richker said. "Just have never felt the need, between not feeling it's fair for the pet that I traveled so much. It's just never been something I've felt a need for."

Richker has felt a need to reach out to people, by helping the homeless in Sarasota through his volunteer work. He said he favors that human-to-human connection.

"What I get the most gain back from is helping others," Richker said. "So maybe between mentoring to people and helping, that's where I get it rather than from an animal."

Many others feel a need to help animals.

"They don't judge you I don't think. They know when you love them and they react to that," Danny Patt said.

Patt said there's something special about the feline friendships he's formed volunteering at Cat Depot in Sarasota.

"I love being able to work with a cat a little afraid when they first come in and they love you to pieces," Patt said. "Just have a little patience with them, show them love, they turn that around and give you ten times the love back."

"I think animals provide a way of us experiencing unconditional love. They're always there. They're home when we get there, they're always excited to see us," said Dr. Jason Quintal, Ph.D. and Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Quintal said one reason many of us love our pets so much is because the relationship is less complicated.

"We don't have the same expectations of our animals that we do of people in our lives," Quintal said. "People are demanding; animals needs are much less.

They're could be science behind it, too. A 2015 study out of Japan found when dogs and their owners gazed into each other's eyes, they both had elevated levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone.

So considering all of this, why do some people not have a strong connection with animals? Dr. Quintal said much of it is situational.

"Culturally if you didn't grow up with an animal, then you're less likely to have one as an adult," Quintal said. "What if as a child they had a bad experience with an animal. Maybe at (age) three, a dog growled or barked and from that moment they have a distancing. They never developed that same level of connections."

We thought Richker might change his mind when he met an irresistibly cute rescue puppy at Nate's Honor Animal Rescue. While he did call the dog adorable, he's leaving pet ownership to the true devotees.

"They treat them and spoil them and give them all the affection in the world. I can understand that; that's good for them and I'm happy for them," Richker said.

If you are willing to bring a pet into your home, numerous studies have shown there are many health benefits, including lower blood pressure and more motivation to be active.

Service animals can go beyond those benefits and help people who are deaf, blind and suffering from conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.

You can follow our Southeastern Guide-Dog-In-Training, Wrigley, on his social media accounts @Wrigleysview on Instagram and Twitter.