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 work. Informed 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.
Explore Current IHAC ResearchLearn More
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.
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.
Conservation Social Work
We’re investigating the interrelationships among humans, the natural physical environment and nonhuman animals. For example:
- In collaboration with the Humane Education Coalition and Zoology Foundation, we’re assessing the state of humane education in primary schools across the United States.
- In partnership with Having Kids, we’re collecting feedback on a human rights approach to family planning.
- Working with the College of Wooster and Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, we’re combating the wildlife trade through education in China.
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.
Recent IHAC Books
Transforming Trauma: Resilience and Healing Through Our Connections with Animals
Edited by Philip Tedeschi & Molly Anne Jenkins, this book focuses on research developments, models, and practical applications of human-animal connection and animal-assisted intervention for diverse populations who have experienced trauma.
Beyond Cages: Animal Law and Criminal Punishment
Justin Marceau demonstrates that a focus on "carceral animal law" puts the animal rights movement at odds with other social justice movements and may be bad for humans and animals alike.
Featured Peer-Reviewed Publications
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 Research. Read 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
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 Issue. Read 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
Current IHAC Research
Explore our ongoing research projects related to therapeutic human-animal interactions, animals in communities and conservation social work.