Woman’s Best Friend: Field Experiment Evidence of Charitable Giving and Canine Companions
Jake Hochard, Greg Howard, Yuanhao Li, Kayla Clark, John Whitehead
Dogs, domesticated for over 20,000 years and often referred to as "Man’s Best Friend", are used increasingly for service in public settings. While controlled interactions with dogs have been associated with prosocial behaviors, 155 million Americans remain fearful of the 89 million household dogs in the United States. Yet, no study has tested the implications of non-service dogs, or those with unreliable service certification, on behavior in the public. Teaming with the Salvation Army during the holiday season, we tested if the presence of a non-service dog at a bell ringing station affected donations. Evidence from over 14,000 shoppers and 1,700 donations reveals would-be donors are deterred by a dog’s presence. We also find that female bell ringers receive fewer donations than their male counterparts. Together, though, a female handler of a dog offsets both the dog’s deterrence effect and the gender-donation penalty. Dash cam video footage and parking lot collection of over 1,000 license plates are combined into an unprecedented dataset to examine the socioeconomic and behavioral determinants of charitable giving and associated gender-solicitor effects. Better understanding the impact of dogs on charitable behavior may inform the conversation on a national clearinghouse for service animal certifications and, when leveraged carefully, may inform increased partnerships between animal shelters and donation-funded non-profit organizations.