Jul 5, 2017

The science behind therapy dogs isn't there

Richard Drew / AP

The efficacy of therapy animals — a mental health trend seen everywhere from airplanes to college campuses — isn't totally backed up by scientific research, per The Washington Post.

The problem: The research around the topic is relatively scarce and prone to cherry-picking, thanks to small sample sizes or poor, if any, control groups. It's particularly difficult to isolate if a person's lower anxiety levels are due to proximity to an animal or any number of other reasons associated with caring for it.

An explanation: The biophilia hypothesis states that humans evolved a need to enjoy the company of other creatures. That might be difficult to quantify with scientific research but that may not matter:

"Throughout history, animals gave us some comfort. So if it works for you and me in a relatively normal environment, maybe it has a special role for someone who has a depression and stress disorder — that just makes sense," Purdue's Alan Beck said. "The literature does show it's not bad. And that's just as important."

Why the science matters: Medical applications. WaPo cites the VA refusing to fund service dogs for veterans with PTSD in 2012, which led the department to embark on a multiyear study to determine the efficacy of therapy dogs.

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Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers as South Korean cases surge

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,100 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 114 new deaths since Wednesday.

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Massive MGM data breach: Guests' personal details posted on hacking site

The MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

An MGM Resorts security breach last summer resulted in the personal details of 10.6 million guests published on a hacking forum this week, ZDNet first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Federal government employees and high-profile guests were affected by the breach, according to analysis by data breach monitoring service Under the Bridge and ZDNet — including officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Microsoft staffers and singer Justin Bieber.

George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla., seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.