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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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.”
New Handbook for Welcoming Pets at Nation’s Senior Centers
(Washington, D.C.) June 6, 2018 The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) have teamed up develop a handbook focused on helping senior center administrators incorporate pet-friendly programming and policies into their facilities. The handbook, Older Adults and Animal Programming, provides an overview of the scientific research that demonstrates the benefits of human-animal interaction, and a path forward for senior centers looking to develop or expand animal programming. HABRI and NISC first conducted a survey of senior center administrators from across the country to gauge interest in animal programming. A large majority of senior centers surveyed allowed animals in some way, with many senior centers expressing a strong desire for more pet-friendly programs and policies. Responses were received from 113 NISC-member senior center administrators from across America. Of the 28% of respondents that had a current therapy animal program, significant positive health benefits for participants were reported: Improved social interaction 71% Improved mental health 48% Increased physical activity 35% “Scientific research demonstrates the benefits of the human-animal bond for healthy aging – from reducing blood pressure to encouraging social interaction to reducing stress and depression,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “With this handbook and through our strategic partnership with NCOA and NISC, we can increase opportunities for seniors to experience the healing power of the human-animal bond.” “Only 32% of the senior centers that responded to the survey reported having pet policies in place, so we feel the handbook is a timely and important opportunity to have conversations about the added value that pet programming can provide to the lives of seniors and staff alike,” said Maureen O’Leary, Program Manager for NISC. “We’re excited to provide this excellent...
New Research to Study Impact of Therapy Dogs On Stress and Academic Performance in Children with Autism
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $33,717 grant to the Texas Tech University for a new study, Integration of AAI and Applied Behavior Analysis to Improve Academic Performance in Children with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability (IDD). This study will examine the effect of an integrated animal-assisted intervention (AAI) in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) on children’s academic performance and physiological stress. “The goal of this study is to determine if interaction with a therapy dog during an ABA-based intervention results in improved academic response and a decrease in child stress levels,” said the study’s principal investigator, Alexandra Protopopova, PhD, Texas Tech University. “The results of this study may provide support for incorporating animals into ABA-based therapy, a bridging of two beneficial therapies for individuals with ASD/IDD that could result in the emergence of advancements in behavioral science.” The one-year, single-subject designed study will examine 6 children between the ages of 4 and 13 with ASD/IDD. The unique, within-subject design will use the 6 participants to address each aim of the study. Dr. Protopopova, Assistant Professor of Animal and Food Sciences and co-investigator Breanna N. Harris, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of the Department of Biological Sciences, will expose each child to 5 conditions, 5 times each in a random sequence and will measure on-task behavior and collect saliva for measurement of cortisol levels. The investigators will then compare each condition on an individual basis. It is expected that when provided with a therapy dog during the ABA-based intervention, the children will have significantly lower stress and that the dogs will be a more potent and durable reward for children, resulting in educational improvements. “Scientific research, including results of previous HABRI-funded studies, has shown that therapy dogs can have a positive...