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.

Our Team

IHAC faculty and staff are educators, practitioners, researchers, authors, students and advocates who specialize in relationships between animals, people and the environment.

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“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.”  

Philip Tedeschi , Executive Director Learn More
Philip Tedeschi and Samara
Students with mini horse

Learn more about how you can support our work to elevate the value of the living world.

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Young girl reading to therapy dog

Our Values

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.

"IHAC Pack" therapy dogs

Our Partners

We collaborate with individuals, organizations and communities worldwide to advance human-animal interaction education, research, advocacy and social work practice. Our key partners include:

Our History

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.


Mara-Daria Cojocaru with dog Norman Ben Goof outside
Ideas from COVID-19: Animal-Assisted Philosophy

Mara-Daria Cojocaru spent her first COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom thinking of new ways to combine her academic and creative work to be of relevance outside of her usual circles. She refers to her new work as animal-assisted philosophy. Cojocaru sought out the Animals and Human Health (AHH) professional development certificate to learn more about our complex relationships with animals and how animal-assisted interventions can be successful.

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Erica Elvove
Farewell to Erica Elvove, IHAC's Associate Director

With deep gratitude and appreciation for her influence and leadership, the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) is announcing Associate Director Erica Elvove’s departure from our organization. After 13 years of service to IHAC, Erica is now transitioning to her new role as the Senior Vice President for Conservation Engagement and Impact at the Denver Zoological Foundation.

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Laura McCarty
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.

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