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Pets Elevated as Lifestyles Change

January 8, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ A dog’s life is becoming a central part of home life for the increasing numbers of two-career families, latchkey kids and singles, according to experts meeting to explore pets’ roles in changing lifestyles.

Dogs, cats and other creatures are being elevated to the status of companions and confidantes, said Patricia Curtis, a member of the advisory committee of Pets Are Wonderful, a not-for-profit animal welfare group.

″The pet is viewed as more than an animal, and not quite a person,″ Ms. Curtis said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Pets are filling the void left when people divorce or delay marriage, or when so-called latchkey children are left unattended by working parents. ″Now, as more and more women are returning to the work force the pet is taking on an additional role ... as a greeter and confidante for latchkey children. The presence of a pet can ease the child’s loneliness,″ Ms. Curtis said.

″Pets are especially important to many single people,″ she said. ″There’s somebody home when they come home. You meet other people when you have a pet. There’s a real brotherhood and sisterhood among pet owners.″

For some people, pets become child substitutes, said Ms. Curtis, who also has written several books on animals.

She said the theme of today’s meeting, organized by the Chicago-based Pets Are Wonderful, was to be ″The New American Family and the Implications for Pet Ownership.″

Those scheduled to attend include Lynette Long, an expert on latchkey children and education professor at American University in Washington, D.C.; child psychologist Jeffrey Kelly of the University of Mississippi; and demographic researcher Mara Friedman.

Ms. Long will focus on how pets can benefit the estimated 7 million to 10 million latchkey children in the United States, while Kelly was to discuss his research showing that pet owners are more likeable and outgoing, said Jaime Baum, a member of Pets Are Wonderful.

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