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Healthy publics as multi-species matters: solidarity with people’s pets in One Health promotion


  • Melanie Rock

    () (University of Calgary)

  • Gwendolyn Blue

    (University of Calgary)


Climate change is contributing to local disasters, and pets increasingly figure in mediated views and responses. By theorizing such responses, we expand on the conceptualization of “healthy publics”. In our view, healthy publics can arise from multi-species entanglements, out of which enactments of solidarity may emerge. Such enactments may encompass people with pets, as well as the pets themselves. Such enactments are selective, however, because they highlight certain lives and vulnerable situations while obscuring others. To develop this line of inquiry, we treated a major flood that took place in 2013 as a case-study. Participant-observation, social media, and qualitative interviews informed our analysis. During the immediate responses to the flood, a particular human-animal dyad became emblematic of people helping one another and their pets. As the floodwaters subsided, media reports helped to coordinate a public response to shelter people and pets on a temporary basis. Yet in the months following the flood, housing insecurity worsened for people with pets. With the passage of time, media coverage became instrumental in resolving housing crises for people with pets, but only on a case-by-case basis. Housing security for people with pets, as a policy issue, remains disconnected from planning to improve resilience overall and to enhance preparedness for disasters. Our analysis highlights the value of engaged research in foregrounding policy issues that influence the lives of people and pets. We conclude that, to be healthy, multi-species publics must entertain questions about whose lives come to matter most. The relative health of a public pivots on the extent to which policies emphasize inclusion and equity. By extension, some publics qualify as unhealthy, which could seem like a provocative claim. At this historical juncture, we feel compelled to defend decision-making process that attend not only to differences of opinion, but also to differences in possible ways of being in the world.

Suggested Citation

  • Melanie Rock & Gwendolyn Blue, 2020. "Healthy publics as multi-species matters: solidarity with people’s pets in One Health promotion," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-8, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:7:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-020-0509-1
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-0509-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen Hinchliffe & Mark A. Jackson & Katrina Wyatt & Anne E. Barlow & Manuela Barreto & Linda Clare & Michael H. Depledge & Robin Durie & Lora E. Fleming & Nick Groom & Karyn Morrissey & Laura Salis, 2018. "Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-10, December.
    2. Barbara Wake Carroll & Ruth J. E. Jones, 2000. "The Road to Innovation, Convergence or Inertia: Devolution in Housing Policy in Canada," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 26(3), pages 277-293, September.
    3. Nelson, C. & Lurie, N. & Wasserman, J. & Zakowski, S., 2007. "Conceptualizing and defining public health emergency preparedness," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 97(S1), pages 9-11.
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