The Use of Dogs in Hospitals

Animal Assisted Therapy
By Amy McCullough, PhD, Ashleigh Ruehrdanz, MPH, & Molly Jenkins, MSW of American Humane Association (originally published in HABRI Central Briefs)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), over 35 million people are hospitalized in the U.S. every year. Many hospitals across the country have incorporated animal programs, such as “animal-assisted therapy” (AAT), “animal-assisted activities” (AAA), “animal-assisted interactions or interventions” (AAI), resident animals, or pet visitation to give patients the opportunity to interact safely with dogs and to make the hospital environment more comfortable and less stressful. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.

4008494134 Continue reading

Oklahoma: Mission Accomplished!

Oklahoma Adoption Event – 6/23/13 from americanhumane on Vimeo.

After more than a month helping the animals and people of the Moore, Oklahoma area recover from a deadly tornado, American Humane Association’s legendary Red Star™ rescue team is finally ending its deployment and I am glad to report that the mission has been a great success. We were able to rescue and/or shelter more than 200 animals, reunite nearly 100 with their families, place some with rescues and get the rest into good, loving homes during an Adopt-a-Thon we held with the city of Moore this past weekend.

We couldn’t have received a warmer welcome from the city officials, county officials, people and press. Following the stunning destruction caused by the EF5 tornado on May 20, Red Star™ quickly mobilized a team of staff and volunteers, our 82-foot Rescue Rig and our 50-foot Lois Pope LIFE Rescue Vehicle. Responding to an invitation from Oklahoma that was secured with the help of Miranda Lambert and her MuttNation Foundation, we raced to the recovery zone, covering 2,000 combined miles in just over a day. After assessing the situation and needs for the animals, we assisted with a temporary animal shelter at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.

It was a tremendous, emotional experience – and I almost missed it. I had just been hired as the new national director for Red Star Emergency Services, and my proposed start date was July1. But on May 20 the devastating Oklahoma tornado changed everything. We knew we needed to be on the ground in Oklahoma as soon as possible, and after some quick paperwork changes and a scramble to relocate my family, we hit the road to the Sooner State. I found an amazing crew of staff and volunteers ready to save animals, and we working through 18-hour, sometimes 100-degree days together, we soon established the kind of rapport that usually takes years to build. Each and every one of the 18 Red Star workers who helped on this deployment brings a unique skill set to animal emergency situations, and all do a wonderful job of continuing the legacy of this nearly century-old program, which was started by American Humane Association during World War I when the United States War Department asked us to save wounded horses on the battlefields of Europe. Since then, Red Star has been involved with virtually every major disaster response, including Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the Joplin tornado, the deadly earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the terror attacks on 9/11, and Superstorm Sandy.

I hope you’ll join me in offering thanks to all those who pitched in to help the animals of Oklahoma in their time of greatest need: Mars Petcare US, makers of PEDIGREE® Food for Dogs and WHISKAS® Food for Cats, sponsored the deployment of the giant Rescue Rig and donated emergency food supplies. Banfield Pet Hospital offered veterinary assistance, along with Zoetis Commitment to Veterinarians, which offered vitally needed medicines. Thank you also to philanthropist Lois Pope for donating our newest 50-foot rescue vehicle; actress, entrepreneur and author Victoria Principal for her personal and public support of the effort, and country music star Miranda Lambert and her MuttNation Foundation for helping secure the official invitation needed to provide emergency operations in Oklahoma. We’d like to thank Backstage Coaches for providing a tour bus to give our team much-needed showers and cool catnaps during the long, hot days in Oklahoma. And thanks to PetSmart Charities and Code 3 Associates for supplying and delivering much-needed extra crates. We are also very grateful for our partners who assisted on the ground with operations including NACA, Red Rover, Code 3 Associates, and IFAW. And finally, thank you to all our supporters who sent in the donations that made our deployment to help these animals possible. Because of you, some 200 animals who were desperate, scared, and in trouble are now safe, sound and in loving homes. Thank you. Your help is much appreciated!

I’d like to conclude today by thanking the people of Oklahoma for their hospitality and help during this trying time; we know that the road to recovery may be long, but the spirit and generosity of the people there will prevail. We wish you (and the many new pet owners who took in our grateful animals) all the best!

>>Click here to view images from Red Star’s Oklahoma deployment.

Red Star

Finding Comfort in the Wake of Tragedy

Senior Fellow
American Humane Association
Children’s Innovation Institute

Many people are experiencing powerful feelings related to the tragedies that occurred at the Boston Marathon. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to express emotions. Children are especially vulnerable to a powerful display of emotion from adults and the chaotic atmosphere that can create. Therefore, adults can help children by remaining calm and attentive when children are present. While it is important to try and keep the daily routine as normal as possible, there may also be the need for added comfort during this extraordinary time of stress.
Adults can comfort children by:

  • Talking, Hugging, Playing, Strolling, Riding Bikes, Reading Books, Watching Movies, etc. with children.
  • Coming home from work and greeting a child with a smile, stating enthusiastically, “It is so good to see you! How are you?” This sends a positive message of caring and concern, and can be especially beneficial for disconnected and withdrawn pre- teens and teenagers. Whether or not there is an immediate response from the child, an important positive message is passed from the adult to the child and will resonate in that child’s brain.
  • “I love you” is among the most comforting phrases (especially powerful with a hug).
  • Taking notice of the positive actions that occurred during the disaster, such as people helping each other, and police, doctors and others readily available to take care of those in need.
  • Complimenting positive things a child does and eliminate criticism.
  • Preparing a favorite meal.
  • Encouraging and modeling hugging, petting, walking, or just watching TV with the family pet(s).
  • Teaching children to “stop and smell the roses,” or point out something beautiful in their surroundings.
  • Letting children know that you trust them to be alert and do the right thing when you are not there to protect them.

Empathy (understanding the thoughts and feelings of others) is the cornerstone of a compassionate society. This tragedy provides an opportunity to express empathy and be motivated to help bring comfort to others. Some children understand the concept of being the best they can be in honor of those who were harmed and had their lives greatly impacted by tragedy. This point of view promotes feelings of gratitude in the child for what they have and motivation to help others less fortunate. Community service involvement is a great way to transform your feelings into positive actions. People of all ages can take part in volunteer activities. Even very young children can participate in a beautification project at their school, such as planting a garden.

The Boston Bombings: Tips to Help Kids Cope

American Humane Association Offers Tips to Help Children Deal with Concerns Following the Boston Marathon Bombings

BW Photo of Girl
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 15, 2013 – Following the bombings during the Boston Marathon today, American Humane Association issued these tips for parents and other caregivers to help children cope with the fear and uncertainty caused by this tragedy:

  • Keep an eye on children’s emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
  • Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.
  • Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details.
  • Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.
  • Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.
  • Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
  • If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.

“Children are especially vulnerable at a time like this,” noted Dr. Robin Ganzert, president & CEO of American Humane Association. “Parents, teachers, and other caregivers need to be especially sensitive to how children are reacting and help them cope with their fears and feelings. The best thing is to talk to children now and in the weeks to come to ensure they receive the attention they need in dealing with this frightening tragedy.”

About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at today.