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.

My message of caring, compassion, and hope to the people of Japan

My trip to Japan, nearly one year after it was struck by a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, has been eye-opening on a number of levels. I’ve learned much by touring the shelters and finding out about the work they are doing on the ground to help animals that are still suffering and homeless after eleven months.

Me presenting to the dignitaries in the room on the work of American Humane Association

Me presenting to the
dignitaries in the room
on the work of American
Humane Association

American Humane Association was invited to participate in a special VIP luncheon hosted by our friends at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ of the Americas. Participants at the luncheon included leading animal welfare organizations in Japan and members of the U.S. Ambassador’s office. During my remarks to the group, I shared the story of American Humane Association and our renowned Red Star™ emergency rescue services with its century-long history of protecting our most vulnerable whenever disaster strikes.

Given the timing of my visit, I also brought a Valentine’s message of caring, compassion, and hope for everyone — humans and animals alike. As I detailed yesterday, American Humane Association is committed to helping the shelters still working diligently around the country to comfort and care for the animals from the Fukushima area. We are working with the Headquarters for the Relief of Animals in Emergencies – a coalition of organizations overseeing the relief effort — to assess the need and work to formulate a schedule of ongoing support from American Humane Association. We also plan to share insights on ways to protect children and animals from future catastrophes, whatever form they might take.

Rodney Tanaka of the U.S. Embassy in Japan

Rodney Tanaka of
the U.S. Embassy
in Japan

I’d like to share with you my remarks from luncheon, which you can read below. Tomorrow I will detail with my trip to Fukushima into the heart of the devastation. Thank you again for reading and for your continued support of American Humane Association and our work of protecting our most precious treasures, our children and animals.

American Humane Association
VIP Luncheon
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
February 15 at 12:00 noon
The Alder Room

Dr. Robin Ganzert Remarks

Good afternoon. Thank you all so much for coming today.

My name is Robin Ganzert and let me start out by telling you how honored I am to be here with people who value the most vulnerable and the voiceless in our society. I especially want to thank Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and all our friends there:

  • Masa Tanaka, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ CEO for the Americas.
  • His daughter Ayako Tanaka, who has worked for months to help us prepare for this trip and make introductions to many of you.
  • American Humane Association Board Member Liz Lyman, who helped engineer this mission to help Japan’s most precious treasures.
  • Lee Linderman and Yuka Nakamura for spending so many hours making arrangements for hosting this special lunch.
  • And Mr. Yasuda and Mr. Oyamada, whom you will meet shortly.
Robin with Masa Tanaka, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ CEO for the Americas

With Masa Tanaka,
the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi
UFJ CEO for the Americas

Most of all, I wish to thank the members of the Headquarters for the Relief of Animals in Emergencies — the brave and selfless coalition that has been working to lessen the suffering of thousands of animals affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident last year — as well as members of the U.S. Embassy, who were kind enough to come and show their support for your work.

Thank you all.

I know something of your work because I have the privilege of serving as the president of one of the oldest humanitarian organizations in the United States, and the only one dedicated to protecting society’s children and animals.

For 135 years, we have worked to keep the most vulnerable in our society safe from abuse, harm, and disasters. In the United States we have changed the way children, pets, and all animals are treated, by intervening when necessary, helping to pass laws, engaging the renowned and powerful who have big voices to speak for the voiceless, and by finding science-based solutions to many of the biggest challenges we face in creating a more humane world.

Liz Lyman, of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and American Humane Association Board Member

Liz Lyman, of Bank
of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
and American Humane Association
Board Member

On March 11, 2011, when the earthquake struck Japan, the entire world rushed to help. We at American Humane Association put out an appeal to our nation, and thousands of Americans opened their hearts and responded, allowing us to send a shipment of greatly needed animal shelter supplies and a contribution to the organizations in this room.

Now, nearly a year later, we came back with a giant Valentine from the American people — a message of hope, love, compassion and caring to the Japanese people and their animals.

We feel very grateful to our friends at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ of the Americas for arranging this special meeting today. It is very encouraging to find a Bank that is not only a great business power, but one with a heart and a sense of community responsibility.

Mr. Oyamada, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
Mr. Oyamada, head
of Corporate Social
Responsibility at the Bank
of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ

To that end, I would like to ask Mr. Oyamada, who oversees Corporate Social Responsibility for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to share a few words with us…..Mr. Oyamada…..

Thank you, Mr. Oyamada. We are very grateful for your company’s caring enough to think about helping communities when they need help.

Like our friends in the Headquarters for Relief of Animals in Emergencies, at American Humane Association we know something about helping communities when they need help.

For almost 100 years, our Red Star™ Animal Emergency Services has been responding to disasters in the United States and around the world.

We have teams of highly trained responders who have saved nearly 70,000 animals in just the past few years. And even today, we are gearing up to respond to a new “Season of Storm” in the U.S. that will inevitably impact our communities.

I would like to show you a brief film that was recently shown on national television in the United States about our work so you can understand why we are so interested in helping here in Japan.
May we have the film, please?

Thank you for watching. Our dear friend, Steven Spielberg with his new movie, War Horse, depicts the founding of Red Star on the battlefields of WWI. And nearly one hundred years later, we are still here — rescuing animals and reuniting them with their families in times of disaster.

You know, many of the places you saw on the screen still need help a year later or even longer. So we understand that in Japan nearly a year later there is still work to be done. Because of the devastation, many people and their pets have still not returned to their homes, delaying the healing of many communities.

I would now like to ask Mr. Shiro Nakagawa, the chair of JSPCA and representative of the coalition, to share his thoughts, experiences, and what he sees as the continuing need.

Please click here for Mr. Nakagawa’s presentation.

Thank you Mr. Nakagawa. We have a similar mission — to protect the voiceless and the vulnerable. I come bearing the good wishes of many thousands of Americans and we wish to help your good work to continue.

Therefore we wish to set up a formal relationship in which we can support that work over the next 12-24 months.

We would be most pleased to make a grant to support the work you are doing. We would also like to make a financial grant to the shelters in Fukushima, which we understand are in great need, and would appreciate your advice on how we might be able to do that.

We wish to offer to all Japanese communities a hope for the future…in our many years of work, our Red Star team has created comprehensive disaster plans to help families and communities protect the most vulnerable — our children and our animals — by preparing them for such emergencies as typhoons, floods, and other disasters. We would be happy to share these with any and all who ask for them.

At this time, I wish to offer thanks again to all the good people in this room and offer a humble token of our esteem.

Presenting a model of our Rescue Rig to Shiro Nakagawa

Presenting a model
of our Rescue Rig
to Shiro Nakagawa

This is a model of the 82-foot long Red Star rescue rig you saw in the film, which for many years has been a symbol of hope, bringing help, medicine, and relief to children, families and animals when it arrived to help following tornadoes, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes — even the volcanic eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in our own Washington state. This rescue rig served our country well at 9/11 by serving the search and rescue hero dogs.

We are happy in a small sense, that through this small truck, the American people — and American Humane Association — are able to bring help and hope to Japan, both to help heal the wounds of 3/11 and perhaps to protect our children and animals in the future.

On behalf of American Humane Association, we thank you for your vital work, and please know that we stand ready to assist in the long-term recovery efforts.