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
New Research to Study Whether Therapy Dogs Can Lower Dose of Sedation in Children Undergoing Surgery

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $79,000 grant to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for a new study, The Effect of Animal-Assisted Intervention on Preoperative Anxiety and Dose of Sedation in Children. This study will examine the effect of animal-assisted intervention (AAI) on children’s anxiety levels and sedation medication dosages prior to surgery. “The goal of this study is to determine if interaction with a therapy dog 20 minutes prior to surgery has a significant effect on reducing a child’s anxiety levels and, in turn, lowering the dose of medication necessary for sedation,” said the study’s principal investigator, Zenithson Y. Ng, DVM, MS, College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Tennessee. “The results of this study may be further used to justify and advocate for AAI in various medical situations and open doors for additional research on measurable medical outcomes associated with AAI.” The three-year, cross-over-designed study on behalf of the veterinary college’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and Biomedical and Diagnostics Sciences will examine 72 children between the ages of 2 and 17 and randomly determine whether the child receives a therapy dog or an iPad tablet 20 minutes before sedation. Dr. Ng and co-investigators Julia Albright, DVM, MA and Marcy Souza, DVM, MPH, will then evaluate heart rate, blood pressure and medicine levels for sedation and compare the amounts of each group. It is expected that children provided with a therapy dog prior to surgery will have significantly lower preoperative anxiety and will require a decreased amount of medication for sedation compared to children who do not interact with a therapy dog. “Scientific research has shown that therapy dogs in hospital settings can have a calming effect, ease stress and provide reassurance to patients young and old, and to their families as well,” said HABRI Executive Director...

Press Releases
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Awards Grant for New Study to Examine Therapy Dog Impact on Pediatric Echocardiograms

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $44,000 grant to Duke University School of Medicine’s Division of Pediatric Cardiology for a new research study titled Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy on Quality, Completeness, and Patient and Parental Satisfaction in Children Undergoing Clinical Echocardiography. This study will examine the influence of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) on young children undergoing an echocardiogram. It is hypothesized that children will have a more complete and higher quality echocardiogram in the presence of therapy dogs. In addition, parents are expected to report higher visit satisfaction scores and greater exam comfort for their children. “Echocardiography is an effective way to use ultrasound to ‘see’ inside the heart, and while taking the pictures is non-invasive, it can still be a scary procedure for young children,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Piers C.A. Barker, Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Duke University School of Medicine. “Typically, we must sedate children who have trouble holding still so that we can get adequate pictures. This study aims to evaluate whether animal-assisted therapy could serve as an effective alternative technique to comfort the children and put them at ease, potentially resulting in more complete echocardiograms, higher quality images, and avoidance of sedation drugs.” “We know from previous scientific research that animal-assisted therapy is effective in alleviating anxiety in hospital patients,” said co-investigator, Margaret Gruen, DVM, PhD, DACVB of Duke. “This is one of the first studies to focus on the potential of animal-assisted therapy to impact a clinical outcome. If results are successful, this study could potentially add non-pharmacologic, low-cost options to improve diagnostic quality for children having medical imaging procedures and could encourage broader use of therapy dogs in other pediatric cardiology settings.” The...

Press Releases
Survey Shows Health Benefits of Pets Linked to Improved Veterinary Care

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) today announced the findings of a new survey on how knowledge of the scientific benefits of the human-animal bond impacts the way pet owners care for their companion animals. The survey asked pet owners about their awareness of research that shows pets improve human health and found that this knowledge motivated them to take better care of their pets, including a significant, positive impact on veterinary care. “When educated about the scientific research on the human-animal bond, pet owners are more likely to take important measures to improve pet health and augment their relationship with their veterinarians,” said AAHA Chief Executive Officer, Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (C/F). “AAHA-accredited animal hospitals continue to raise the standard for veterinary care across the country, and HABRI gives us another way to connect with pet owners to enhance that care.” When 2,000 pet owners were educated about the human health benefits of pet ownership: 92% said they were more likely to maintain a pet’s health, including keeping up with vaccines and preventive medicine 89% said they were more likely to maintain a pet’s health, including regular check-ups with a veterinarian 88% said they were more likely to provide a pet with higher quality nutrition 51% said they were more likely to purchase pet health insurance 62% said they were less likely to skip visits to the veterinarian 89% said they were more likely to take better care of a pet “When people find out that pets improve heart health, decrease stress, help alleviate depression and address specific conditions that include autism, PTSD and Alzheimer’s, they become more focused on caring for their pet’s health,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “More awareness of human-animal bond science improves veterinary care and leads to a healthier pet population.” Veterinarians,...