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Posted on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

Go ahead - sleep with your pet if you want to!

By Deb Kern

Editor's Note: This column was written by Humane Society of Huron Valley Executive Director Tanya Hilgendorf in response to recent articles published warning people not to sleep with their pets.


Photo by Deb Kern, HSHV Marketing Director

“Don’t let your pets sleep with you!” health experts are now warning. Well, I’m not an expert, but I say, “Hogwash!”

If you don’t want your animals sleeping with you then, by all means, don’t let them.

If they paw and pester you so you can’t get a good night’s sleep, it's definitely not worth it.

If you have allergies or asthma, it is a bad idea.

If the animal has behavior problems related to dominance…out they go!

This is not, however, a “one-size-fits-all” topic. Many of us get great comfort from an animal at rest with us.

It is true that there are diseases that can transfer from animal to person and vice versa, but most are harmless, and they are not vampire germs — they are all just as easily transmitted in the daylight. In fact, transmission is probably least likely while everyone is lying still.

Nobody wants a flea-infested bed, so I highly recommend you not sleep with the stray you just brought in off the street. But, in this day of affordable and effective veterinary care, our own pets should not be living with parasites.

I can only surmise that the folks giving these warnings are not animal people. They surely don’t understand how animals are part of our family. But we aren’t having dinner conversations with them. We are loving them and they are loving us in the most basic of ways. It is a physical love: the tranquility we feel with a purring kitty in our laps, the joy we get from the dog rolling onto his back for big belly rubs.

I would hate to see these warnings deprive a child of the comfort of sleeping with a beloved animal. As a child I was scared of the dark, and I only slept peacefully when my dog was with me. I would have easily sacrificed a limb, or two, over losing her.

I am no longer scared of the dark, but I can’t replace the feelings of serenity that comes from an animal dozing with me. In fact, those sweet moments help sooth away the annoyances that they and others cause during the day.

These health experts must have also missed the hundreds of studies on the many positive health benefits our animals provide us, including increased ability to fight infection and longevity!

Also competing with these warnings is the science that indicates that households without animals, ones that are too clean and sterile, might actually be causing allergies in children. Personally, I would rather risk a zoonotic disease, one my body is designed to fight, than risk getting cancer from the man-made carcinogens found in common cleaning products.

To me this is another dire warning from people with a one-sided view out the window of a laboratory. The same type of detached officials who insisted our completely dependent newborn infants were better off in a cold lonely crib in a far off room than sleeping alongside their mothers. We bond, love and learn who we are as mammals in part through physical closeness.

During the design of our new shelter, the latest trend was to put cats and dogs behind glass, like merchandise. They said it was safer and it would make the animals more desirable to potential adopters. More nonsense! Animals aren’t merchandise. Like humans, they are sensory beings. They need to be touched. We need to touch them.

I guess from a strictly disease prevention viewpoint, we should all live behind glass, but then we really wouldn’t be living, would we?

Deborah Kern is the Marketing & Capital Campaign Director for the Humane Society of Huron Valley.