Canines and Childhood Cancer Study Presented at Conference


This month, I traveled to the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Conference in Phoenix, Arizona to present a poster showing preliminary data from American Humane Association’s Canines and Childhood Cancer (CCC) study. The CCC Study, funded by Zoetis, seeks to examine and document the healing effects of animal therapy on child cancer patients and their families.  This conference is attended by more than 1,000 pediatric hematologists and oncologists each year, including doctors from many of our research study sites. Pediatric oncologists from our participating children’s hospitals at U Mass, Vanderbilt and Randall stopped by the poster to talk about the study’s progress and share positive stories regarding their involvement in the CCC study and how much the children enjoy the dogs.

The poster attracted many doctors and nurses from hospitals across the country who shared hospital stories related to their existing pet therapy programs. Several doctors told me that they were happy to see this poster here at the conference since these types of programs are very important, doctors do not always remember to utilize them, and the impact that they have on the patients and families can be quite profound. One told me, “I can treat kids with cancer all day long, but seeing them with these dogs and the way they make them smile brings me to tears.” The doctor went on to share a story and photo of a young patient who had his arm amputated due to cancer and was now getting visits from a therapy dog with only one eye. The doctor marveled at the happiness that the dog brought that child because they had something in common, and how the child loved to walk the dog around the hospital and talk to people.

The conference was a huge success with many doctors and nurses gaining awareness of the CCC study and looking forward to our results!

Our Top 10 Reasons to Be Thankful this Year

On this special holiday devoted to giving thanks, we would like to share our Top 10 Reasons to be thankful in 2014:

  1. Farmers and ranchers who put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving by going the extra mile to raise their animals humanely.

Some 10 billion animals are raised on our nation’s farms and ranches, yet the vast majority – almost 90 percent – are not provided animal-centric welfare standards beyond the industry standards offered by trade association guidelines and retailer-imposed audits. Our hats are off to those farmers and ranchers who go the extra mile and raise their animals according to science-based, verifiable standards that ensure they have adequate space, lighting, food and water, humane treatment and the ability to express natural behaviors. More than 100 producers on 8,000 farms have joined our American Humane Certified™ program – the country’s first and largest farm animal welfare effort now protecting 1 billion animals. Thank you! And now it is even easier than ever for Americans to make humane choices at the grocery store and to set a humane table this holiday season and all year long. Join us and do your part by purchasing humanely raised products.

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The Reunion of Specialist Brent Grommet with his Warrior Dog Matty

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It was a dream come true for hero dog and hero soldier.  Thanks to Don Grommet’s personal mission to right a wrong for his son, a hero in the War on Terror, MWD Matty is now at home in Missouri with his battle buddy.   I am so thrilled that Specialist Brent Grommet and his dog Matty have been reunited after more than a year apart.  I am also humbled that American Humane Association was able to play a part in making this reunion happen.  American Humane has helped numerous warrior dog handlers reunite with their battle buddies, but this reunion is extra special because of all the work and effort that went into it. After working with so many veterans to help them be reunited with the dogs with whom they developed such a close bond, you come to understand just how important and meaningful those relationships are to these men and women. It’s about compassion, caring and healing. Continue reading

Meeting Finder, the Horse Who Played Joey in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse

Animal StarsFrom childhood, we have always felt loved horses. We love horses so much that we have written two books about these amazing creatures. Just as millions of people around the world have, we watched the Thoroughbred Joey in Steven Spielberg’s movie War Horse and marveled at the horse’s acting and athletic ability. Remember the spectacular scene when Joey jumps over the World War I tanks? The horse’s keen intelligence and bravery heightened our regard for him from respect to awe.

What a treat it would be to actually meet Finder, the amazing horse who played the role of Joey, and his incredible trainer Bobby Lovgren. Part of our extensive research as co-authors with Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane Association, for our new book Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors, was to meet the celebrity animals who star in film and television and to interview their world-class trainers. Continue reading

Meeting Crystal, the Monkey from Night at the Museum Movies

Animal Stars
Don’t we all, deep in our hearts, want to meet a celebrity superstar someday?

Our opportunity came when we interviewed Thomas (Tom) Gunderson and met his family’s most famous member—Crystal, the adorable capuchin monkey who starred in the Night At The Museum movies, among many other memorable roles.

Meeting this delightful A-lister movie star was a special part of our extensive research as co-authors with Robin Ganzert, president of American Humane Association, for our new book ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors (New World Library, September, 2014, We had to literally go “behind the scenes” to see for ourselves how the animals we all love in film, television, and commercials are trained and cared for. Continue reading

From Heart Wrenching to Heartwarming: Red Star® Tennessee Horse Rescue

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We weren’t sure that we were going to be able to save him. Weak and frail, I looked into Scooter’s eyes and could tell that he had lost all hope. He simply had just given up and decided that he couldn’t take it any longer. But, as our team crested the hill last Thursday morning during a law enforcement seizure in Lauderdale County, Tennessee to rescue six horses in a heart wrenching case of alleged animal cruelty – our teams immediately sprang into action – committed to getting Scooter and the five other members of his equestrian family off of the property alive.

Our Red Star® team, alongside our great friend and veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Dunlap of Dunlap Equine Services, worked with incredible precision to save the lives of these horses, some of which were so horribly malnourished that they required IVs and oxygen before we could even leave the property where the seizure was being conducted. In the field, Scooter by far was the absolute worst. He, along with several others were critical – and Dr. Dunlap was diligent in providing swift, expert medical treatment to help save them. However, there was still a huge problem. Scooter not only needed IVs and oxygen – he was so weak that he couldn’t get up. So our amazing team once again sprang into action – getting trucks into position, carefully preparing straps, all the while providing comfort to poor Scooter whose life remained in the balance.

I held Scooter’s head while the team prepared to slowly lift Scooter to his feet so we could load him onto a transport trailer and then immediately rush him to our undisclosed emergency shelter for further intensive care. While we waited, I could sense that while he was coming around thanks to some of the emergency treatment he received – he still felt completely defeated. But within moments, teams of three-four lifted opposing straps which were properly positioned under Scooter’s body, and he was – to our astonishment – upright just long enough for us to load him into the trailer before he collapsed in the soft bedding where he remained for transport.

Our work didn’t stop in the field though, and quite frankly it was only just beginning. Back at the emergency shelter our teams have been running a 24/7 critical care unit along with Dr. Dunlap. And Scooter, once unloaded through professional rescue techniques, was immediately placed in an Anderson sling and was connected to more IV’s while receiving much needed oxygen just to keep him alive.

These horses are far from out of the woods and our teams continue to provide intensive care to these precious animals around-the-clock. From cleaning stalls, to providing lifesaving intervention including blood transfusions and hand-feeding critically ill animals – our team hasn’t stopped. But happily, one thing is for sure – Scooter is certainly starting to get that sparkle back in his eyes and he’s even taken his first steps and remained out of the sling over the last 12-24 hours thanks to his miraculous progress. It literally brought tears to some of our eyes as we watched him feel free and strong enough to stand on his own for the first time. It was exceptionally heartwarming!

I cannot thank our team of heroes enough. And I cannot express the amount of appreciation we have for the many caring individuals who have helped these animals. Most importantly – we thank our wonderful supporters like you – and our Red Star program presenting sponsors at MARS Petcare US, makers of PEDIGREE® food for dogs – you each allow us to save animals’ lives at a moment’s notice! Those animals just like Scooter, and the other horses that now have a fighting chance.

American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Visit American Humane Association at and remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.