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Pets, Purity and Pollution: Why Conventional Models of Disease Transmission Do Not Work for Pet Rat Owners

By Charlotte Robin, Elizabeth Perkins, Francine Watkins, Robert Christley

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Abstract

In the United Kingdom, following the emergence of Seoul hantavirus in pet rat owners in 2012, public health authorities tried to communicate the risk of this zoonotic disease, but had limited success. To explore this lack of engagement with health advice, we conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with pet rat owners and analysed them using a grounded theory approach. The findings from these interviews suggest that rat owners construct their pets as different from wild rats, and by elevating the rat to the status of a pet, the powerful associations that rats have with dirt and disease are removed. Removing the rat from the contaminated outside world moves their pet rat from being ‘out of place’ to ‘in place’. A concept of ‘bounded purity’ keeps the rat protected within the home, allowing owners to interact with their pet, safe in the knowledge that it is clean and disease-free. Additionally, owners constructed a ‘hierarchy of purity’ for their pets, and it is on this structure of disease and risk that owners base their behaviour, not conventional biomedical models of disease.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Publication Title International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume 14
Issue 12
Pages 10
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ijerph14121526
URL https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/14/12/1526
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Charlotte Robin; Elizabeth Perkins; Francine Watkins; Robert Christley (2018), "Pets, Purity and Pollution: Why Conventional Models of Disease Transmission Do Not Work for Pet Rat Owners," https://habricentral.org/resources/64530.

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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Health
  3. Human-animal interactions
  4. Infections
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. Pets and companion animals
  8. pollution
  9. Rats
  10. risk
  11. Rodents
  12. social constructions
  13. South Korea
  14. Zoonoses
Badges
  1. open access