About the Institute for Human-Animal Connection
The Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) intentionally elevates the value of the living world and the interrelationship and health of people, other animals and the environment. We accomplish this through natural and social science-informed education, applied knowledge, research and advocacy, with an ethical regard for all species.
IHAC faculty and staff are educators, practitioners, researchers, authors, students and advocates who specialize in relationships between animals, people and the environment.
Philip Tedeschi , Executive Director Learn More
“We view the living world as intimately connected, where human and non-human animals have a shared agenda. Optimum human health and resiliency occurs in the presence of other healthy living systems.”
Guided by our values, we support the development of humane communities for people, other animals and the environment through innovative education, research and community engagement.
Responsible and Respectful Interaction
We believe responsible and respectful interaction with animals and the environment is necessary to establish global and ecological stability, sustainability and equality.
Social Justice, Cultural Diversity and Social Change
The quest for new knowledge about human-animal connections and social-ecological systems must reflect respect for social justice, cultural diversity and beneficial social change.
Exploring the Evidence
Animal and human lives intersect in ways that are most often beneficial to both but can, at times, be detrimental. We are committed to exploring both the evidence-supported benefits and risks of human-animal interactions.
Conservation Social Work and One Health Framework
Human-animal connections occur at the individual level but also extend to natural physical environments and to relationships within the family, community, broader society and global village. We endorse a framework of conservation social work and One Health that acknowledges these interrelations at multiple levels and encourages multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches.
Ethical and Humane Guidelines
The therapeutic partnership with animals for the improvement of human physical and mental health must ensure that animals also benefit and are treated within ethical and humane guidelines.
Preparing Professional Social Workers
We are dedicated to preparing professional social workers to foster informed, grassroots community resilience. Just as we are prepared to recognize the ugly face of discrimination and prejudice and openly label racial discrimination as immoral and illegal, we must prepare the profession to do the same on behalf of the living world that is our only home.
Relationships with the Natural Environment
Our relationship with Earth is an enduring feature of our lives, homes and communities, and modern understanding has rekindled acceptance of non-human animals and the natural environment as important contributors to our lives.
We collaborate with individuals, organizations and communities worldwide to advance human-animal interaction education, research, advocacy and social work practice. Our key partners include:
The University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) is one of the only programs in the world to offer specialization in human-animal interactions alongside a graduate-level social science degree.
1996: First Course in Animal-Assisted Social Work Introduced
In response to suggestions by students and alumni interested in exploring human-animal interactions, Clinical Professor Philip Tedeschi taught the first course in animal-assisted social work to Master of Social Work (MSW) students.
2002: Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate Established
University of Denver graduate Will George Neahr left part of his estate to GSSW to support human-animal interaction studies. From this, Tedeschi developed the Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate within the school’s MSW program.
2005: Institute for Human-Animal Connection Founded
With grants from the Animal Assistance Foundation and American Humane Association, co-founders Philip Tedeschi and Jennifer Fitchett opened IHAC, identified specialized internship sites for Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate students and launched the Animals and Human Health professional development program.
2009: First American Humane Endowed Chair Appointed
Frank R. Ascione was appointed the American Humane Endowed Chair—a partnership between the American Humane Association and the University of Denver.
2011: Colorado LINK Project Established
IHAC received a grant from Animal Assistance Foundation to examine and improve Colorado’s efforts to address animal maltreatment and its relation to domestic violence. This led to the development of the Colorado LINK Project.
2014: First Biennial Practitioner’s Conference
IHAC’s inaugural Animals on the Mind practitioner’s conference—“Transforming Trauma: Research developments and methods for trauma-informed animal-assisted interventions"—took place May 7-8, 2014.
2017: First Annual Research Symposium
Following the appointment of Director of Research Kevin Morris in 2014, IHAC hosted its first research symposium and solidified its research agenda.
Animals and School Social Work
With an MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate from GSSW, alumna and school social worker Laura McCarty uses a therapy dog to help support students, families and school staff.
MSW Alumna Erica Elvove
As associate director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Erica Elvove champions a holistic approach to social work that includes humans, animals and the environment.
Impacting Kenyan Communities
For a decade, GSSW’s Social Work in Kenya course has prepared students to collaborate with local communities and organizations to improve the health of people, animals, and the environment.