Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) Honors:

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Pet-Inclusive Culture Category 

The Street Dog Coalition

Public Service Category

The Dr. Vernard Hodges It Takes a Village Foundation

Media Category


Products & Services Category


Pet-Inclusive Infrastructure Category

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced the winners of its annual Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards, which recognize companies and organizations with innovative products and programs designed to advance the human-animal bond and create a more pet-friendly society. The 2023 Human Animal Bond Innovation Award winners are:


Pet-Inclusive Culture: Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Tito’s Handmade Vodka has been proud to call itself a team of “dog people” for more than twenty-five years. At first, it was just Tito and “DogJo” out at the distillery. Soon, stray dogs started showing up to receive food and care, creating a tradition of distillery dogs that continues to this day. Since those early days, Tito’s has rescued over 120 distillery dogs and supported thousands of animal-focused nonprofits. From the distillery to home offices around the country and beyond, Tito’s culture always includes canine companions – affectionately known as co-woofers – with pet-friendly workspaces and regular “yappy hours”. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is always ready to celebrate the human-animal bond, serving as a model of pet-inclusive culture.

The Pet-Inclusive Culture category is sponsored by Nationwide Pet.


Public Service Category: Street Dog Coalition

The Street Dog Coalition (SDC) works to strengthen the human-animal bond in over sixty communities with street clinics to provide free veterinary care to pets of people who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness. They focus on providing services that are anchored around a One Health model that recognizes the way that people, animals and their communities all affect one another. SDC uses evidence-based practices to inform its outreach efforts, which also include providing free spay/neuter vouchers to pet owners; supporting veterans by caring for their pets; and making public transportation more pet friendly.

The Public Service Category is sponsored by Zoetis.


Media Category: The Dr. Vernard Hodges “It Takes a Village” Foundation, Inc.

The Dr. Vernard Hodges “It Takes a Village” Foundation was founded in 2011 by Dr. Vernard Hodges, who along with Vice President Dr. Terrence Ferguson are popular celebrity veterinarians with their hit National Geographic WILD TV show, “Critter Fixers: Country Vets.” Both veterinarians have been active in their middle Georgia community for many years through generous charitable contributions and entrepreneurial leadership. Selected for its “Vet for a Day” program, the “It Takes a Village” Foundation introduces teens to veterinary medicine as a career. Dr. Hodges and Dr. Ferguson are passionate about sharing their knowledge, skills and life journeys to help children from diverse communities learn about career opportunities in veterinary medicine.

The Media category is sponsored by Dog TV.


Products & Services Category: Amazon

Amazon Pet Day in 2023 included five philanthropic mobile clinics, each offering free canine core and rabies vaccinations for up to 100 pets and pet families in need. These clinics were held at central community resource locations chosen to provide access to underserved communities. This collaboration between Amazon, PetIQ and more than 30 grassroots organizations made Pet Day about more than just pet products by connecting passionate veterinary professionals with committed neighborhood groups to serve hundreds of pet families in need.


Pet-Inclusive Infrastructure Category: BestyBnB

BestyBnB helps domestic violence, mental health, animal welfare and other social service agencies secure safe, temporary homes for clients and their pets so they can and will seek the help they need. The BestyBnB platform is a critical solution for nonprofit organizations to help millions of women, children, mental health patients and their pets, using innovation and technology to remove barriers to safe housing that exist in many communities across the United States. BestyBnB was born out of the mission to keep pets and people safe, connected and together, building the necessary infrastructure to support the human-animal bond in times of crisis.


“PetSmart Charities is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor for the Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards to celebrate the powerful relationship between pets and people,” said Aimee Gilbreath, President of PetSmart Charities and member of the HABRI Board of Trustees. “This year’s honorees demonstrate a deep commitment to protecting and strengthening the human-animal bond in their communities.”


“HABRI is grateful to Presenting Sponsor: PetSmart Charities; Category Sponsors: Nationwide Pet, Zoetis and DOGTV; and Supporting Sponsors, whiskerDocs and the World Pet Association,” said HABRI President Steven Feldman. “These organizations have not only made the Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards possible, they have also demonstrated a strong and enduring commitment to the human-animal bond.”


Hayley Maynard



Press Releases
Embrace Pet Insurance Supports Human-Animal Bond Research

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that Embrace Pet Insurance, one of the highest-rated U.S. pet insurance companies, has become an official supporter of HABRI and its research on the human health benefits of companion animals. “When pet owners become part of the Embrace family, we strive to strengthen the human-animal bond, especially when pet parents need it most,” said Ambrish Jaiswal, CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance. “By supporting HABRI, Embrace Pet Insurance is proudly helping to advance human-animal bond research that demonstrates the positive role that healthy pets play in our lives.” “We know from research that pets are considered part of the family, and that pet owners want what’s best for their four-legged family members,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “Embrace helps to provide and sustain healthy pets, so that, as family, they are protected against unexpected accidents and illnesses.” Scientific evidence increasingly shows that pets improve heart health; alleviate depression; increase well-being; support child health and development; and contribute to healthy aging. In addition, companion animals can assist in the treatment of a broad range of conditions from post-traumatic stress to Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of the human-animal bond impact more than just human health. Findings from a recent HABRI survey of 2,000 pet owners demonstrate that knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond motivates pet owners to take better care of their pets. From providing pets with higher quality nutrition to purchasing pet health insurance, spreading awareness of the health benefits of pet ownership improves pet health and welfare. “Embrace believes in giving back to the pet care community, and supporting HABRI research is perfectly aligned with our company values. We look forward to playing a supportive role for HABRI and helping discover more ways in...

Press Releases
New Research Studies to Dig Deeper into the Health Benefits of Companion Animals for Vulnerable Populations

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced funding for five new research projects focused on the positive effects of human-animal interaction on human health. These new studies will examine the influence of pet ownership, pet caretaking or animal-assisted therapy on a wide array of health conditions among a varied group of populations, including older adults, children with pediatric cancer, and suicidal adolescents. “With human-animal interaction research more clearly documenting the impact of the human-animal bond on mental and physical health, it is important to support research on how companion animals can benefit vulnerable and at-risk populations,” said Bob Vetere, HABRI President and Chair of the Board of Trustees. “This new group of research projects is particularly exciting as two of the studies will add to existing HABRI research results on the benefits of dog walking for physical activity and the impact of therapy animal visitation on the quality of life of pediatric cancer patients. Two studies will look at mental health and preventing suicide among teenagers, a population that is often overlooked.” Out of a total of more than 40 proposals received, HABRI has funded the following five research projects: Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD (University of Sydney): Increasing Dog-walking in the Community: What is the Potential of Wearable Dog Trackers? The PAWalks Trial Megan MacDonald, PhD and Monique Udell, PhD (Oregon State University): Joint Physical and Social Well-being for Adolescents and Their Family Dog Mary Jo Gilmer, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN (Vanderbilt University): Pilot Study of the Effects of Animal-Assisted Interactions (AAI) on Quality of Life in Children with Life-Threatening Conditions (LTC) and their Parents Sandy Branson, PhD, MSN, RN (Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth): Pet Caretaking and Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in Older U.S. Adults Participating in a Nationwide Longitudinal Probability Cohort Study Alexander...

Press Releases
New Research to Examine the Healing Influence of Pets for Intimate Partner Violence Survivors

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced funding for a new research project at Thompson Rivers University that will explore the role of companion animals (pets) within incidents of intimate partner violence (IPV), including how pets can contribute to the wellbeing of IPV survivors. “Despite a well-established link between IPV and animal abuse, little research has examined the specific impact of pets on IPV,” explained Dr. Rochelle Stevenson, lead investigator for the study. With co-investigators Dr. Allison Gray (Western University) and Dr. Patti Timmons Fritz (University of Windsor), Stevenson offered that “our research will document that pets are victims in their own right as well as important partners in the healing journey of human survivors.” This multi-method study will use data from the 2018 Statistics Canada administered Survey on Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS), a nationally representative sample of Canadian adults, to understand how the experience of animal abuse, which often co-occurs with IPV, relates to survivors’ health and wellbeing. The analysis of this data will be paired with interviews with survivors to explore how companion animals influence help-seeking and healing from violence. Existing data shows that the majority of IPV survivors report pet abuse or the threat of pet abuse. Despite this, only a small percentage of domestic violence shelters offer on-site pet services. Without the ability to leave with their pets, as many as half of these survivors will delay leaving violent situations, putting themselves—and their pets—at further risk. “Our goal is to use these findings to encourage more domestic violence shelters and services to embrace pet-friendly measures that will allow survivors of IPV and their pets to heal together,” added Stevenson. “HABRI is proud to fund research with real-world impact,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “This project will provide new, timely data in...