This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

From Correction to Connection: The Effect of Pet Ownership on Recidivism and Empathy in Former Inmates




Joplin, Brooke

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


After a person is released from prison the rate at which they reoffend is known as recidivism. Previous research shows that an increase an empathy leads to a reduction of recidivism rates (Kratcoski & Kratcoski, 2017; Wooldredge & Smith, 2018). The introduction of pets has been connected to an increase in empathy of pet owners (Ascione, 1992; Podberscek, Paul & Serpell, 2005). Under this theory, one can expect there to be a correction between pet ownership and a reduction in recidivism. Through the use of Amazon Mechanical Turk, participants were given assessments measuring their empathy, attachment to their pet, and their risk of recidivism. Attachment styles with their pet were discerned as secure, anxious, avoidant or fearful. By analyzing these parameters, a lower risk of recidivism rate was associated with pet ownership and participants with a secure attachment style had a significantly lower risk of recidivism rate compared to participants with an anxious attachment style. Pet owners also scored higher on an empathy measure compared to non-pet owners; however, there were no significant differences in pet attachment style found. A Hayes Process Macro was utilized to look for mediation using a conditional process model. The results indicate the relationship between pet ownership and risk of recidivism was partially mediated by the participant’s empathy scores.