Research into Human-Animal-Environment Relationships

At the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC), we aim to improve the overall well-being of humans, animals and the environment through innovative, scientifically sound research and scholarship in therapeutic human-animal interactions, animals in communities and conservation social workInformed by a systems view of social problems and guided by principles of efficacy, beneficence and justice, our research provides novel insights into the relationships between humans, animals and the environment we share.

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Prison Dog Program

Therapeutic Human-Animal Interactions

A primary research focus for IHAC is understanding how to ethically and most effectively incorporate animals and the natural environment in therapeutic settings. For example:

  • In partnership with Green Chimneys, we’re conducting a series of studies to understand the impacts of animal-, horticultural- and natural-environment-based interventions on youths’ self-regulation skills and developmental health in complex treatment and special education environments.
  • We’re measuring the impacts of including animals in therapy on client engagement in clinical environments.
  • We’re working to identify best practices for implementing prison dog training programs and measure the impacts of these programs on inmates, staff and dogs.
It took 418 pages, 621 references and more than 30 contributors for IHAC to create the first-ever documentation of Green Chimneys’ nature-based interventions and the research behind them.
Child carrying cat

Animals in Communities

We’re working to understand the role of companion animals in communities and their impact in areas such as local economies and human health. For example:

  • In partnership with the Humane Society of the United States and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, we’re measuring the impacts of Pets for Life, an intensive animal welfare intervention, on public and environmental health within the One Health framework.
  • We’re measuring the social, environmental and economic impacts of animal welfare practices and policies in several cities nationwide.
  • We’re working to identify animal sheltering practices that optimize outcomes for the animals and communities they serve by incorporating social work best practices and concepts.

There has been a misconception that people in low-income communities or communities of color are opposed to spaying and neutering, but in a recent study, IHAC researchers concluded that race and ethnicity are not primary determinants in use of veterinary services, although access to care is.

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Cheetah

Conservation Social Work

We’re investigating the interrelationships among humans, the natural physical environment and nonhuman animals. For example:

In our study of humane education, 96% of respondents—829 school social workers, psychologists, teachers and administrators—supported broader incorporation of humane education in U.S. schools.

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Recent IHAC Books

Featured Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • 2019

    Bexell, S. M., Clayton, S., & Myers, G. (2019). Children and animals: Incorporating the importance of human-other animal relationships in fostering resilience in children. In P. Tedeschi & M. Jenkins (Eds.), Transforming trauma: Finding resiliency and healing through animals (pp. 217–240)Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. Read More

    Clayton, S., Bexell, S. M., Xu, P., Tang, Y. F., Li, W. J., & Chen, L. (2019). Environmental literacy and nature experience in Chengdu, China. Environmental Education ResearchRead More

    Ekholm Fry, N. (2019). Horses in the treatment of trauma. In P. Tedeschi & M. Jenkins (Eds.), Transforming trauma: Finding resiliency and healing through animals (pp. 265–298). Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. Read More

    Hawes, S.M., Camacho, B.A., Tedeschi, P. and Morris, K.N.(2019). Temporal trends in intake and outcome data for animal shelters in Colorado, 2000 to 2015. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 254(3), 363-372. doi:10.2460/javma.254.3.363 Read More

    Hawes, S., Ikizler, D., Loughney, K. Marceau, J.F., Tedeschi, P. and Morris, K.N. (2019) The Impacts of the City and County of Denver’s Breed Specific Legislation. Speciesism and Breed Discrimination Collection. 5. Read More

  • 2018

    Ascione, F. R., McDonald, S. E., Tedeschi, P. & Williams, J. H. (2018). The Relations among Animal Abuse, Psychological Disorders, and Crime: Implications for Forensic Assessment. Behavioral Sciences & The Law Special IssueRead More

    Bexell, S. M., Decker-Sparks, J. D., Tejada, J. & Rechkemmer, A. (2018). An analysis of inclusion gaps in sustainable development themes: Findings in recent social work research. International Social Work 00(0) 1-13. Read More

    Clayton, S., Bexell, S.M., Xu P., Zhang, Z.H., Li, W. J., Chen, H. W., & Hu, Y. (2018). Confronting the wildlife trade through public education at zoological institutions in Chengdu, China. Zoo Biology 37(2) 119-129. Read More

    Ekholm Fry, N. (2018). Equine-assisted therapy for trauma-accidents. In K. Trotter & J. Baggerly (Eds.). Equine-assisted mental health for healing trauma (125-139). New York, NY: Routledge. Read More

    Ekholm Fry, N., Meszaros, E., & O’Neill, K. (2018). Coursework in equine-assisted activities and therapies at universities and colleges in the United States: A scoping review. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 6, 118-126. Read More

    Fine, A. Tedeschi, P. Mackintosh, T. Boone, J. (2018)Fostering a More Humane University Environment Through Course Work, Service-Learning, and Animal-Assisted Interventions and Activities. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 6, 105-117.  Read More

    Flynn, E., Roguski, J., Trujillo, K., Tedeschi, P. and Morris, K.N. (2018). The impacts of an animal-assisted therapy as an adjunct to intensive family services among Child Protection Services-involved families: A randomized controlled trial. Child Maltreatment. doi: 10.1177/1077559518817678. Read More

IHAC students with mini horse

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Current IHAC Research

Explore our ongoing research projects related to therapeutic human-animal interactions, animals in communities and conservation social work.

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Employment Opportunities

IHAC Post-MSW Research Fellow

Position Summary

The IHAC Research Fellow will be an integral member of the IHAC research program at the University of Denvers Graduate School of Social Work, supervised by the Institutes Director of Research with direct reporting to the IHAC Research Associates. An emphasis will be placed on creating academic products including funding proposals, peer-reviewed journal articles, conference abstracts, and other publications to formally communicate research findings and build the Fellows professional portfolio. After two years, the IHAC Research Fellow will be prepared for doctoral programs and/or research within academic, non-profit, or for-profit environments.

A two-year position as an Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) Research Fellow is available to a recent graduate or anticipated 2020 graduate of a Master of Social Work (MSW) program. The overall goal of this position is to provide the Research Fellow with robust training in social science research with a focus on the Human-Animal-Environment Interaction field, in preparation for a career in research.

The IHAC Research Fellow will receive a full-time salary with access to University of Denver benefits. Preference will be given to University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work graduates and to applicants with a history of demonstrated interest in research, project management, and human-animal-environment interactions.

Applications Due April 1, 2020!

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