Betting on the future of racehorses

Horse racing

Millions of Americans, and indeed millions around the world, will tune in to the Preakness this Saturday, watching the performance of incredible four-legged athletic champions in their pursuit of the Triple Crown. Regardless of what your ideology is on racing, the horses are beautiful, and we all want to ensure they are humanely treated and provided with a forever loving home in their retirement.Several years ago, American Humane Association provided assistance to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) as they developed a rigorous and thorough accreditation process for the retirement of Thoroughbreds. “The American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Humane Association, among many others, have helped the TAA create a rigorous and thorough accreditation process that prioritizes one thing above all else – the welfare of retired Thoroughbreds,” said TAA Vice President Madeline Auerbach. Continue reading

Retired military dogs deserve a new leash on life

Mankind has always had a special relationship with dogs.

For thousands of years, dogs have comforted us, protected us, and given us their unconditional love. Time and time again through the ages they have proven why they are considered our best friends.  And nowhere is that remarkable bond between dogs and people been more critical than on the battlefield. Continue reading

Jennifer Ladd, Oklahoma State University | AHA Humane Scholar Series

Humane Scholar Jennifer Ladd

Oklahoma State University

Surveying Parasites in a Population of Chimpanzees in Zambia

SANCTUARIES IN AFRICA are often very important for the animals and for the people who care for them. With the support of American Humane Association, this study was conducted with a goal to address parasitic diseases that could affect both animals and people. Ten different species of parasites were identified within chimpanzees at Chimfunshi, from nematodes to protozoa. All species within the samples were potential zoonotic parasites, implying the possibility of transfer from the chimpanzees to the workers and their families.

Jennifer Ladd's study "Surveying Parasites in a Population of Chimpanzees in Zambia" was conducted with a goal to address parasitic diseases that could affect both animals and people.

One particular parasite that was identified, Entamoeba histolytica, ranks second in the world as cause of morbidity from parasites, causing dysentery and colitis. Because the sanctuary lacks year-round running water, the student addressed basic parasitic control. Although anthelmintic medical therapy would be ideal, decreasing the interaction with fecal materials remains a challenge due to access to water and medical equipment (gloves and disinfecting agents). Hopefully, this study will allow for the development of practical methods to keep both the chimpanzees and their caretaker families healthy.

Please consider sponsoring a student in the 2013 class. A grant of $6,000 funds one Humane Scholar, fully underwriting a stipend to the student and the cost of implementation and management of the program. With American Humane Association’s Humane Scholar program, veterinary students are supported in their academic undertakings and given every opportunity to advance in the fields of veterinary medicine and animal welfare, without incurring additional debt to participate in those opportunities.

For more information on supporting American Humane Association’s Humane Scholar program, please contact René Gornall at 202.677.4224 or

Click “expand” to view Jennifer’s report


AHA calls on Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse their policy and help veterans heal with service dogs!

As we head into the week of our second annual celebration of heroes on both ends of the leash, please join us on an important mission: We must encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse a policy that ends the reimbursement for veterans who suffer from PTSD for their use of service dogs while in recovery. The American Humane Association Hero Dogs national campaign that millions of folks from around the country have been celebrating isn’t just about honoring the winning dog – it is also about the much needed education in this country about the healing power of animals in our lives.

With the Department of Veteran Affairs recent ruling, our great country has created yet another barrier to pet ownership with this ruling on service dogs, which is indeed a travesty for the many families who are welcoming soldiers home from the battlefields of Iraq. But AHA’s mission is so very relevant: we are here ready to enlighten and educate millions about the power of compassion and healing with the human-animal bond – and we are here to make the world a better place. Today, American Humane Association, the nation’s leading advocate on behalf of animals and children, called on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reverse a policy that would end a program reimbursing veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for their use of service dogs while in recovery.

The policy is set to go into effect on Oct. 5, 2012. American Humane Association’s focus on animal-assisted therapy dates back to 1945 when we promoted therapy dogs as a means to help World War II veterans recover from the effects of war. We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle. Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest though their physical pain and mental anguish. We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans and their families by continuing to reimburse veterans who suffer from PTSD for the cost of medically approved service dogs. In a letter sent to United States Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), American Humane Association commended the senator for his leadership on the issue and his fight on behalf of veterans who enjoy the healing benefits of service dogs. How can others help us reverse this ruling?

You can help by signing the attached petition demanding that the VA reverse this ruling – and allowing our veterans who suffer from PTSD to be reimbursed for service dogs. Thank you for joining American Humane Association as we promote the healing power of service dogs for our nation’s war heroes. Help us to encourage heroes on both ends of the leash! Sign our petition today.

Pfizer Animal Health/American Humane Association Study Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy on Kids with Cancer

I am proud to say I was there when the American Humane Association and Pfizer Animal Health decided to combine efforts to study the benefits of animal assisted therapy (AAT) on pediatric cancer patients, and their families.

A wagging tail can inspire children and adults in ways which we are still struggling to better understandFor years, medical professionals have touted the healing power of pets. There’s evidence of this from around the world, but having said that, there’s little data specifically regarding pediatric cancer. And while most expects concur, the presence of dogs is helpful – questions remain. How exactly are there presence a benefit? Under what circumstances? Are dogs more a benefit who are trained to do one thing more than another? Are certain families more or less targeted to benefit? Most of all, how does this mechanism work that dogs are able to reach into the soul of people undergoing treatment?

The research study, “Canines and Childhood Cancer: Examining the Effects of Therapy Dogs with Childhood Cancer Patients and their Families,” is a multi-year effort taking place in hospital settings across the U.S. that will examine the specific medical, behavioral, and mental health benefits AAT may have for children with cancer, and their families. A comprehensive literature review has been completed as a first step, and may be downloaded here.

In addition to the literature review, focus groups and interviews were conducted with hospital staff, family caregivers and animal-assisted therapy handlers, to glean vital information regarding childhood cancer epidemiology and treatment, the well-being of patients and families who are affected by childhood cancer, the applications of AAT for various populations in need, the state of AAT effectiveness research, and the considerations that need to be made when incorporating therapy animals into clinical settings.

Findings from the literature review, focus groups and interviews will help guide the design of the overall study. Preliminary findings showed that no standard protocol for an animal-assisted therapy session (i.e., length, number and type of participants in each session, session activities, or talking points) seemed to exist at any of the research hospital sites; each animal-handler team went about their work somewhat differently. This finding underlines the need for this study to develop consistent animal-assisted therapy treatment fidelity across sites in order to conduct the type of rigorous research needed in the human-animal interaction field.

The information gathered during this initial phase will serve to inform a scientific study design in order to conduct a pilot trial with three to five pediatric oncology sites across the country. Upon the conclusion of the pilot trial, researchers anticipate the launch of a full clinical trial across multiple sites for 12-18 months. During this time, certified therapy dogs and their handlers will conduct regular animal-assisted therapy sessions with pediatric oncology patients and their families, which will be evaluated by a range of biological, psychological and social measures.

“Now we begin the important work of validating and quantifying something that we have observed and felt for years through our own experiences — that interaction with animals can provide beneficial effects for people in need of comfort, encouragement and healing,” said Robin R. Ganzert, Ph.D., president and CEO, American Humane Association.

Results from the study will be widely disseminated through professional conferences and peer-reviewed journals in a diverse range of disciplines, including veterinary medicine, pediatric oncology, social work, and animal-assisted therapy.

The Animals of Fukushima

Nearly a year ago, the world watched in horror as one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded happened off the coast of Japan, causing devastating tsunamis and triggering nuclear meltdowns at the power plant in Fukushima. The result of the disaster was catastrophic: more than 15,000 deaths, hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes, many still unable to return. This also had a dramatic impact on the pets of these families and other animals. Many of the displaced people had to put their animals in shelters, because most of the human shelters do not allow pets. As I detailed in a recent post, some of these animals from Fukushima are still in shelters around the country, awaiting their families, or for a few, adoption into a loving home.

As you can imagine, access to Ground Zero of the nuclear disaster is severely restricted. I was grateful to be afforded a visit to the area to tour one of the two shelters still operating and to learn about the dangerous, courageous, and extremely vital work people have done and are still doing on the ground there every day.

My first stop was to an animal shelter in Fukushima. This facility primarily houses larger dogs and lots of cats, while the smaller canines were mostly transferred to shelters in Tokyo, such as the temporary shelter I visited a few days ago. All rescued and captured animals were first scanned with a Geiger counter, thoroughly washed, and then transported to this relatively new shelter, which, as it stands now, will remain in operation for some time to come.

Owners are still awaiting word on when they can return to their homes in the “no entry zone,” but a timetable for that has yet to occur. The government has stated that it will take approximately 30 years to remove the effects of radiation from the environment, which is a fact many pet owners are not able to face. They are retaining the ownership rights to their animals, because for them, the act of holding on to their beloved pets with the goal of one day bringing them home is the last glimmer of hope for a return to normalcy.

The two vets from the government prefecture overseeing the facility, not to mention the staff, were all personally affected by the earthquake. Nevertheless, they remained extremely committed to the task at hand: caring for the animals. Though the earthquake occurred last March, the shelter workers could not rest until August because of all that needed to be done; heeding the nuclear warnings, they would report to work in their protective gear.

A resident of the Fukushima animal shelter

A resident of the Fukushima
animal shelter

This cat was rescued from the disaster site in Fukushima

This cat was rescued from the
disaster site in Fukushima

A map of the disaster area in Fukushima
A map of the disaster area in Fukushima
Following the visit to the shelter, our party made for the coast where the tsunami devastation is still quite evident. We traveled until we were close to “Japanese No Entry Zone,” a mere 20 km away from the heart of it all. The stories we heard are stunning; sadly, they are still more about loss than healing. Many young people are worried about what their future holds and the long-term impact on their health. There is a planned national study on the impact of radiation on the animals, but to date no samples have been collected. Geiger counters did not reveal alarmingly high levels of radiation on the rescued and captured animals, but these were the animals who were able to escape. Many of the animals living inside the housing units who were left behind likely perished due to a lack of food and water. We still have much to learn about how this series of disasters has affected farm animals, horses, and wildlife.

The effects of this catastrophe will be felt for decades. The sad fact is life may never be the same for those close to the disaster zone. American Humane Association remains firmly committed to helping in any way it can. The government prefecture is interested in learning more about our disaster tips for children and animals which we developed in 2011 for the US.

American Humane Association will be working with the animal welfare agencies and the local shelters on assistance and a sharing of ideas and best practices to help. As the founding principle of our historic Red Star program states: everyday, everywhere — we are there to rescue and save animal lives and reunite them with their families.

A final report will be forthcoming upon my return to the U.S., entitled “State of the Animals of Fukushima.”

The shelter in Fukushima doesn't afford nearly the amount of space for the animals as does the temporary one I visited in Tokyo.

The shelter in Fukushima
doesn’t afford nearly the
amount of space for the
animals as does the
temporary one I visited in Tokyo.

This wall is all that remains of a house that once stood near the ocean. Now, the whole street is desolate and all you can see is this rainbow.

This wall is all that remains of
a house that once stood
near the ocean. Now,
the whole street is desolate
and all youcan see is
this rainbow.