Washington, D.C. (January 15, 2014) — The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced that, after an extensive nationwide search, Steven Feldman has been selected to lead the organization as its executive director. An experienced association executive and public policy advocate with more than 20 years in the field, Feldman has worked in many related areas including wildlife conservation, animal welfare, healthcare and education.
“On behalf of all of our trustees and sponsors, we are thrilled to welcome Steven into the organization to help position HABRI for continued growth,” said Bob Vetere, president of HABRI. “Given his successful background in leadership and management in the public sector, along with his extensive knowledge and previous work in the zoo and aquarium industry, we are confident he will be a great asset in taking HABRI to the next level.”
Feldman replaces Steve Hellem of Navista, who had been contracted by HABRI to oversee the organization since its launch nearly four years ago.
“We truly thank Steve Hellem for all he has done to help HABRI get to where it is today,” said Vetere. “He has been a great asset and we look forward to growing HABRI on the solid foundation he has helped build with a full-time executive director.”
Prior to joining HABRI, Feldman served as senior vice president for external affairs for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He also worked at Powell Tate, a leading public affairs firm, and as a staff member in the United States Senate.
“It’s an honor to join HABRI because its mission is so critical to improving the lives of so many people,” said Feldman. “The Foundation has taken a leadership role in achieving more widespread recognition of the power of the human-animal bond to benefit the health of individuals and communities. I am grateful to the trustees and sponsors, and look forward to continuing the momentum they have created in advancing the research in this important area of health and science.”
Since its launch, HABRI has created the world’s largest database of human-animal bond related research, which can be found at www.habricentral.org. In addition, HABRI recently announced that, in conjunction with the Morris Animal Foundation, it will soon be awarding $300,000 in research grant funding for additional scientific research with a specific focus on the benefits of the human-animal bond in seven key areas of human health:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Cardiovascular Health
- Childhood Allergies/Immunity
- Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease
- Neurological Disorders
With a new executive director in place, future growth for HABRI includes plans to launch a book series, Pets & People, in partnership with Purdue University and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), geared towards helping health professionals apply human-animal interaction science to improve clinical practices.
Founded by The American Pet Product Association (APPA), Petco Animal Supplies Inc., and Zoetis (formerly the animal health business of Pfizer), HABRI is a broad coalition of companies, organizations, entities whose mission is to achieve formal, widespread scientific recognition that validates and supports the positive roles of pets and animals in the integrated health of families and communities, leading to informed decisions in human health.
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HABRI Awards Grant to Green Chimneys
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it had awarded a $24,000 grant to Green Chimneys, a leader in animal-assisted therapy and educational programs, for a new research study, Animal-‐Assisted Social Skills Training for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This grant to Green Chimneys advances the HABRI Foundation’s mission to better document the effects of animals on human health through scientific research,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “Animals can play a positive role in the lives of those with autism, and we look forward to learning more as a result of this study. Further exploring the effect of dogs on children with ASD, the purpose of this study is to develop and test an animal-assisted social skills intervention. As one of the first research projects undertaken by The Sam & Myra Ross Institute at Green Chimneys, the 12-week study will include a controlled trial with 32 Green Chimneys students ages 8-15, comparing an animal-assisted social skills group and a traditional social skills training group without an animal present. It is predicted that participants in the social skills training group that incorporates work with dogs will exhibit greater levels of change in social skills, perspective taking, theory of mind and decreased feelings of isolation when compared with those participants receiving the traditional social skills training. If significant results are found, it will further demonstrate that animal-assisted interventions are a valid approach for teaching children with ASD the skills necessary to engage with peers and will further support the role of the human-animal bond in advancing children with developmental delays. Green Chimneys’ long history of incorporating animal-assisted activities into therapeutic treatment makes it an ideal laboratory for conducting research in the area of human-animal interaction (HAI),” said Dr. Steven Klee, Green Chimneys Associate Executive...
New Study to Examine Benefits of Pets for Older Americans
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $43,000 grant to the University of Missouri for a new study to explore how companion animals effect social engagement and psychological well-being in adults ages 55+. The primary objective of the study is to examine the influence of companion animal ownership on the social engagement (social contacts and organizational participation) and psychological well being (life satisfaction and depression) of adults. It aims to discover if companion animal owners have better social engagement and well-being than those who do not during mid- (55-64 years) and later (65+) adulthood, in addition to exploring the differences between the two age groups. “We are excited to be able to look at how having a cat or dog impacts social engagement and mental health for middle-aged and older adults,” said Dr. Rebecca Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, lead investigator and professor at the University of Missouri. “We believe that people who have a dog or cat will be less socially isolated, have lower depression, and higher life satisfaction compared to non-pet owners.” The research team will analyze data from a recent national study, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and utilize a novel approach in looking at those individuals who participated in an experimental human-animal interaction portion of the survey to provide a robust contribution to information on how companion animals can impact this demographic. The project is expected to be complete in one year. “With 75 million baby boomers entering mid and later adulthood it is vital that we understand how everything, including pets, can improve their lives,” said HABRI Executive Director Steve Feldman. “With the results of this study in hand, potential pet owners will have new information about the benefits of bringing a pet into their lives, and health care providers could more frequently consider prescribing pets for older Americans in their care.”
Will Reading to Rabbits Improve Student Skills?
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $13,000 grant to the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies for a new study, Listening EARS: How Does Reading to Rabbits Affect Reading Skills of Third Grade Students?, to uncover how reading aloud to a non-threatening presence, like a classroom rabbit, helps improve students’ reading skills. “The human-animal bond can lessen the stress young children can feel when taking on challenging tasks in the classroom, like reading aloud,” said Dr. Annie Petersen, Ed.D., Principal Investigator in the Listening EARS study. “This study will provide us with a valuable tool to understand and act on the benefits of small animals to student learning and development.” By utilizing small animals already present in classrooms (e.g. rabbits and guinea pigs), it is predicted that classroom interactions with an animal will improve 3rd grade students’ oral fluency and reading comprehension, two essential measures of academic success. “HABRI is committed to studying the impact of companion animals on child health and development,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “This new research will contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of pets in the classroom.”