Feds offer research grants on interactions between pets, children

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Federal health officials are seeking grant applications for research on the interactions between people and pets.

The National Institutes of Health and Mars Inc. are supporting the research related to the influence of human-animal interactions on child health and development. Researchers can submit grant applications from Oct. 19-Nov. 19, 2009.

The grants will be provided through the NIH Research Project Grant and NIH Small Grant programs. The maximum award is $500,000 annually, or $2 million in funding over a four-year period.

The NIH is providing about $2 million annually through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and $500,000 annually through the National Institute of Nursing Research. Mars, through the company's Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition division, is providing $2 million for studies over the next four years.

The NIH and Mars are supporting research on the impact of animals on public health, the role of animals in physical and psychological therapeutic treatment, and the impact of human and animal interaction on development and health. Mars states the research could "provide concrete evidence on how children perceive, relate to, and think about animals and how pets in the home impact children's social and emotional development."

"In addition, research is needed on the impact of pets in the home on children's health, eg, allergies, the immune system, asthma, and mitigation of obesity," Mars states. "On a practical level, research is needed on such issues as when and how parents select pets for their families/children and how best to prevent injuries from pets."

More information on the grants is available at www.nih.gov. Under "Grants," click on "Funding Opportunities," then on "Active RFAs." Scroll down to the listing for "The Role of Human-Animal Interaction in Child Health and Development" on the right-hand side of the page.

Applicants seeking an NIH Small Grant should click on the link for RFA-HD-09-030, and applicants seeking a NIH Research Project Grant, on the link for RFA-HD-09-031.