Date of Conferral







Lucille Esralew


There is research on the benefits of animal-assisted interventions. However, no study was found on hurricane survivors' lived experience and their attitudes toward animals after a traumatic experience. The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to explore the lived experience of hurricane survivors' attitudes toward their companion animals or other animals they interacted with after a natural disaster. The transactional theory of stress and coping was used to explain how participants appraised their stress and reduced it. Constructivism was used to uncover hurricane survivors' experiences and their attitudes toward animals after the disaster. The research question examined the lived experiences of hurricane survivors regarding their interaction with pets or companion animals following the storms, level of distress, coping methods, roles of pets in their recovery, and any noticeable benefits. Convenience and snowball sampling were used in this qualitative study. Eleven participants who experienced Hurricanes Irma and/or Maria, interacted with an animal, experienced trauma, and were 18 years old or older were interviewed. Interviews were semistructured and conducted by telephone or Zoom videoconferencing. With inductive coding, four thematic categories were formed to answer the research question. It was found that participants had an emotional and surreal storm experience, were distressed during and after the storms, used various coping strategies to minimize distress and perceived benefits from interacting with animals during and after the storms. Findings may be used for positive social change by creating awareness and including animals in therapy and disaster recovery efforts.