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Social detox

By Renn Hartmann

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The extent of animal abuse, neglect and abandonment places increased pressure on animal welfare organisations to protect the welfare of animals. Such organisations operate under restricting circumstances, doing what they can with what they have and under heavy reliance on support from the public. What is becoming inherently more recognised is that animal abuse has definite psychological implications on individuals within society, be they perpetrators or witnesses. More so, there is a definite correlation between the prevalence of animal abuse and the particular state of a social environment. The ability of a social environment to foster socially toxic (socially toxicity1) aspects not only influences the prevalence of animal abandonment, abuse and neglect, but more so, through these conditions and these acts of violation upon animals, individuals (perpetrators or witnesses) may become psychologically distanced from healthy moral and ethical behaviour in society. An environment that is specifically attuned to the links between animal abuse and social-toxicity is the South African township. It is an environment predominated by social-toxicity and has little to no animal care facilities or animal welfare education initiatives and hence presents opportunities for the expansion of elementary ideas into a comprehensive solution. ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’ (Mahatma Ghandi). If one acknowledges the positive impacts of human-animal interaction on the psychological health of humans, then attempts at addressing the influences of socialtoxicity on the psychology of humans, and in promoting animal care and animal welfare education, must stress the aspect of human-animal interaction within a succinctly tuned architectural environment. Stressing this aspect is achievable through Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)2, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)3 and critically, through the dissolution of ‘typical’ animal housing into an interactive environment that is beneficial to both the human and animal participant. Of particular importance is the understanding of the synergistic nature of social conditions (i.e. how one condition does not act in isolation from another). This aspect, combined with attempts at rejuvenating the human-animal bond in townships, indicates the significance in the dissolution of theoretical knowledge, gained through the research process, into an architectural scheme; if purposeful sensitivity is to be achieved. Responses of an architectural nature not only articulate a dialogue between operational functions and space but are also based on the requirement of space, in itself, to formulate a dialogue with the user; an experiential dialogue based on spatial richness and variety taking cognisance of the fact that the built environment has its role to play in inferring positive spatial associations within disadvantaged areas


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2010
Pages 87
Publisher University of the Witwatersrand
Location of Publication Johannesburg, South Africa
Department Engineering and the Built Environment
Degree Architecture
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abandonment
  2. Abuse
  3. Animal abuse
  4. Animal-assisted activities
  5. Animal-assisted therapies
  6. Animal health and hygiene
  7. Animal neglect
  8. Animal roles
  9. Animals in culture
  10. Animal welfare
  11. Health
  12. Mental health and well-being
  13. neglect
  14. Pet ownership
  15. Physical environment
  16. Social Environments
  17. Societies