This article originally appeared in The Detroit News and has been republished with permission.

The health and safety of the pets of Metro Detroit are dictated by the health and safety of their families and communities.

Animal welfare is a significant indicator and contributor to the overall quality of life for both pets and people.  

For 144 years, Michigan Humane has been looked at as a leading voice for animals. Veterinary care, behavioral support, cruelty investigations — all of that is core to who we are and will continue to be.

That said, we have undervalued the impact of animal-friendly practices on a community. Michigan Humane is not an animal welfare organization — we are a quality-of-life organization for everyone. 

In a national survey by American Animal Hospital Association, 90% of pet owners indicated that owning a pet positively affected the quality of their daily lives.

Studies have shown that dog owners are 31% less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke. Dogs owners are 34% more active — all things that don’t solely impact the pet, but truly create a healthier family. Providing families equitable access to pet ownership and veterinary care creates healthier communities. 

Our pets bring us outside, and when appropriate space is provided, they bring us together.

When social interaction goes up, crime goes down. Exercised, socialized dogs, with access to veterinary care, are significantly less likely to bite. We can truly create safer communities through accessible pet-friendly spaces and access services for pets. 

The reality is that Metro Detroit can do better. We need to support pet-friendly spaces, not only downtown but in the neighborhoods. We need to support pet ownership and access to services. We need to improve access to pet-friendly housing. Our work creating healthier and safer communities needs to grow. We can drive that change. 

The reality is that people are choosing where to live and work based on the environments we can provide their pets. Members of the next generation are choosing home ownership based on the benefit to the pet they have or the pet they might get. 

If Metro Detroit is going to elevate the quality of life for everyone in the community and be a community of choice that attracts talent and families, animal welfare needs to be part of that. 

Michigan Humane has made the commitment that Detroit and our surrounding areas will be the most humane community in the country by 2030 — that we will be measured and seen as a community where compassion for our pets translates into compassion for our neighbors. 

Most people want a better life for the pets of Metro Detroit but think of our impact in isolation. The reality is we want to be measured on whether we make lives better. We can create healthier, safer and a more humane community — something we all want — and studies have proven that our work can be that driver.  

Matt Pepper is the president and CEO of Michigan Humane and has served in this role since 2014. He also serves as the chair of the board of directors for the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

Photo credit: Michigan Humane

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