About the Institute for Human-Animal Connection

Mission: The Institute for Human-Animal Connection advances knowledge and practice in the field of human-animal-environment interactions through innovative and ethical education and research.

Vision: The Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) elevates the relationships between people, other animals, and the environment to improve the health and well-being of all. 


IHAC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

The Institute for Human-Animal Connection values diversity, equity, and inclusion. We recognize how identities, contexts, and systems intersect to disparately affect humans and, by extension, other animals and the environment. Therefore, we are dedicated to understanding, confronting, and dismantling historic, ongoing, systemic marginalization and oppression in human-animal-environment interactions. 

Our Commitments:

  • As an organization, we listen to and learn from diverse voices. It is our responsibility to create welcoming and inclusive spaces for humans of all abilities, ages, cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, races, sexualities, and social classes. 
  • As educators, we value and support the backgrounds and experiences students bring to human-animal-environment interactions and are committed to increasing the accessibility of our education programs. We prepare students to develop policies and practices that will uphold diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work. 
  • As researchers, we ask critical questions to understand how power, privilege, and oppression affect human-animal-environment interactions. 

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 , Director Emeritus
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.

Contact Us

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.


Maureen Huang, a woman with long dark hair, poses with her dogs near an urban harbor
New IHAC Adjunct Faculty: Maureen Huang

The Institute for Human-Animal Connection is pleased to welcome Maureen Huang to the adjunct faculty team for the Animals and Human Health certificate program. Huang is the founder of Pawsibility, a private practice in Singapore that specializes in animal-assisted therapy. She often works alongside her canine co-therapists to bring insights that change the way people think, behave and feel.

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Sarah Pellizzari with her two dogs
HAEI-SW Certificate in Clinical Practice

To further advance the field of human-animal-environment interactions (HAEI), IHAC is proud to support the Human-Animal-Environment Interaction in Social Work certificate at the University of Denver, Graduate School of Social Work. Sarah Pellizzari, an MSW graduate who earned the certificate (at the time known as the Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate) in 2012, integrates pieces of her learning into her work today.

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Philip Tedeschi with Samara
IHAC Leadership Transition Announcement

After 15 successful years as the founding executive director of the Institute for Human–Animal Connection (IHAC), Clinical Professor Philip Tedeschi has decided to step down from the executive director role on June 1, 2021, and return to teaching full time at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work. Research Associate Professor Kevin Morris, the American Humane Endowed Chair, will serve as the new executive director.

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