Human Animal Bond Research Institute and Winn Feline Foundation Award Grants to University of Missouri
Washington, D.C. (October 2, 2017) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $52,204 grant to the University of Missouri for a new study, Shelter Cat Adoption in Families of Children with Autism: Impact on Children’s Social Skills and Anxiety as well as Cat Stress. This study will examine the effect of the introduction of a shelter cat on social skills and anxiety in children with autism, and on stress levels for the cats themselves.
“Preliminary research demonstrates the effectiveness of companion animal interaction on alleviating social skills deficits and anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” said the study’s Principal Investigator, Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri. “While many studies have focused on the impact of dogs on children with ASD, this study aims to determine the beneficial impacts of a pet cat on children with autism and their families, as the temperament and the ease of care for cats compared to other animals may increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for the children, the cats and the family as a whole.”
In addition to HABRI’s grant award, the PIs have also received funding from the Winn Feline Foundation in the amount of $25,000. The combined funding from Winn Feline and HABRI have enabled the PIs to expand the sample size and add the support of a statistician, which will greatly enhance the power of the study and hopefully result in more definitive and robust findings.
“Winn Feline Foundation is thrilled to have initially supported this important study on the human-cat bond and to hear of HABRI’s grant award. Their additional support will strengthen the study’s findings”, commented Winn’s Executive Director Dr. Vicki Thayer. “This significant project evaluating the effects and benefits of adoption of cats by children and families with ASD fits our mission and values”.
Using a two-group, randomized, repeated measures design with a delayed treatment control group, this 18-month study will recruit participants through a Mid-western autism diagnostic and treatment center. Shelter cats from two local animal shelters will be screened for temperament and then enrolled. Dr. Carlisle, and co-PI Rebecca Johnson, PhD, Professor and Director, Research Center for Human Animal Interaction, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Co-Investigators Jessica Bibbo, PhD, Colleen Koch, DVM, Leslie Lyons, PhD, and Nancy Cheak-Zamora, PhD, will pre-screen the human participants and families will be randomized into the treatment or delayed treatment control groups. Cat stress will be measured through fecal cortisol. Caregivers will complete a 19-item demographic questionnaire and children’s social skills and ASD symptoms will be measured using several instruments. Families randomized into the treatment group will adopt a cat first while those in the control group will adopt a cat after 18 weeks. The investigators expect to find that children of families with an adopted shelter cat will have increased social skills, decreased anxiety and that they will become bonded with their cat. It is also expected that cats will adjust to their new homes without significant stress.
“This study has great potential to advance our knowledge of the benefits of the human-animal bond for children and families with ASD,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “Caregivers and parents should select the pet that is best suited for their family and for the well-being of the animal – maybe that’s a cat.”
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information about HABRI, visit www.habri.org.
About The University of Missouri
The University of Missouri was founded in 1839 in Columbia as the first public university west of the Mississippi River. Today, with an enrollment of more than 33,000 students, 13,000 full-time employees and 305,000 alumni, Mizzou is a $2.2 billion enterprise and an important investment for the state and nation.
About Winn Feline Foundation
Winn Feline Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health. Since 1968, the Winn Feline Foundation has funded more than $6 million in health research for cats at more than 30 partner institutions world-wide. This funding is made possible through the support of dedicated donors and partners. Research supported by Winn Feline Foundation helps veterinarians to improve treatment of common feline health problems and prevent many diseases. For further information, go to www.winnfelinefoundation.org.
More Press Releases
Pet Partners Commits $100K in 2020 to Support Therapy Animal Research
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that Pet Partners, the nation’s leading organization in animal-assisted interventions, will donate $100,000 to fund scientific research on the health, education, and wellness outcomes of therapy animals, for both the people and the animals involved. This marks the second year in a row that Pet Partners has contributed to HABRI’s research grant program, raising the total amount awarded to $200,000. “Pet Partners therapy animal teams play a vital healing role for so many people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and communities,” said Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. “Funding HABRI research will help validate the work of these dedicated volunteers and their amazing animals with scientific data, while also delivering important information that will advance best practices in the field.” In order to be eligible for HABRI-Pet Partners funding, investigators must incorporate registered Pet Partners volunteer therapy animal teams into their proposed research. As part of the organization’s registration requirements, all Pet Partners therapy animal teams must meet high standards in the areas of patient and public safety and outstanding animal well-being. “We are grateful for our dynamic partnership with Pet Partners and for their sustained commitment to scientific research,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “Last year’s contribution funded two important research projects that we expect will produce meaningful results, and with this generous donation, we will work together to make an even bigger impact in 2020.” In addition to funding provided by Pet Partners, researchers can apply for other HABRI grants to investigate the health and wellness outcomes of pet ownership and animal-assisted activities. Proposals should have a strong theoretical framework and take an innovative approach to assess the effect of companion animals on humans within the categories of...
Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation Announces Executive Director
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...
Publication of Largest-Ever Study on Pets in the Classroom Indicates Positive Impact on Academic and Social Behavior
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), The Pet Care Trust, and American Humane announced today the online publication of the Pets in the Classroom Study, which assessed the social, behavioral, and academic effects of the presence of small, resident classroom animals for 591 third and fourth-grade students across the United States over the 2016-2017 school year. The study’s findings suggest that classroom pets may help improve academic performance and social skills in children. “The utilization of classroom pets in third and fourth grade U.S. classrooms appears to hold significant benefits for children’s social, behavioral, and academic development,” said Amy McCullough, PhD, Principal Investigator and Senior Research Advisor, American Humane. “Findings show that the presence of pets in the classroom may increase social skills and competence for children in the third and fourth grades and, additionally, be effective in decreasing select problem behaviors in the classroom.” American Humane’s research team recruited a total of 41 classrooms across 19 schools to take part in the study. A total of 591 third and fourth grade students from 15 U.S. states were enrolled in this study. Overall, 20 participating classrooms had a pet and 21 did not. Teachers, students, and parents were asked to complete survey instruments at three designated time points over the course of the study period. Teachers were not asked to change the way in which they taught and/or utilized the pet in their classroom in an effort to assess the impact of typically occurring classroom pet interaction. Across the school year, teachers with classroom pets, which ranged from guinea pigs to small reptiles, saw significantly greater increases in overall social skills, including every subscale of the social skills measure (communication, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, engagement, and self-control); social competence; and academic reading competence. In addition, teachers...