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Institute for Human-Animal Connection

Institute for Human-Animal Connection


Pets for Life

The Institute for the Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and University of Wisconsin-Madison's Shelter Medicine program to look at the community-wide impacts of HSUS's Pets for Life Program (PFL). The Pets for Life as One Health study was launched in four communities (Madison, WI; Granger, WA; Wilder, ID; Seattle, WA) in mid-2018. The One Health framework states that human, animal and environmental health are interconnected. The PFL program promotes animal health and welfare through community outreach in underserved areas where access to veterinary care is limited and the costs of care can be prohibitive. IHAC has developed a rigorous and innovative four-year study, to explore if this animal-focused program also has positive impacts on human and environmental health in the communities served. The research team will be hosted by Dane County Humane Society, Seattle Humane Society, Yakima Humane Society, and Idaho Humane Society over the four-year study period. The results of the study have the potential to transform the animal welfare field by highlighting the importance of companion animals on overall community health and lead to significant policy change, expansion in funding sources and increased interdisciplinary collaboration.

Community Based research Assistants

Our Community-Based Research Assistants (CBRAs), who are based in the humane societies implementing the PFL programs, are an integral part of the study. They are on the ground in their communities building relationships and collecting data. CBRAs are experienced in the fields of animal welfare and social science and most importantly, they are deeply connected to the communities in which they work. CBRAs go through an extensive training process that covers everything from research design and data collection to interpersonal skills, cultural competency and relationship building. Without these individuals IHAC would not be able to build the important community partnerships needed to implement a strong research study that will not only advance the field of animal welfare, but also have a positive impact on animal, human and environmental health.

Timothy Jackson

Timothy Jackson 

Timothy Jackson has loved animals since he can remember, originally from Florida but growing up in Guatemala Timothy volunteered for many years as a medical interpreter. It was during this time that he witnessed the deep impact animals and humans have on each other. So Timothy decided to become a Veterinary Technician, after completing his studies At Bel-Rea Institute in Denver in 2002, he return to Guatemala and founded ESAP (Equinos Sanos Para El Pueblo). An organization that serves working equines and their owners through community development, training, and empowerment and veterinary services. In 2008 he returned to the United States. Timothy has spent the last four years working as a community outreach coordinator and family support coach with Housing Hope, working with families experiencing homelessness and spent the last of those four years as coordinator for a career pathway program for low income individuals.

Jennifer Mendez

Ariel Medina

Jennifer Mendez graduated from Perry Technical Institute where she received her certification in the Medical Office and Administration program. Jennifer has always had a passion in working with animals and people. She is looking forward to her role as a Community-Based Research Assistant and the opportunity it presents to bring change in the community she calls home, where resources for animal and human health are not as easily accessible.

Angie Darbyson

Natalie Sorden

Angie Darbyson completed her BSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Guelph, and a MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Ottawa where she focused on the disease mechanisms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). In her 10 plus years of research experience, she has worked in many diverse fields, ranging from forestry and plant pathology, to cellular and molecular medicine. During her eight years in Ottawa, she volunteered with a Therapy Dog at the ALS Clinic. There she witnessed firsthand the profound impacts that a therapy animal had on the emotional well-being of those living with ALS and their caregivers. Now residing in Madison Wisconsin, Angie enjoys volunteering at Heartland Farm Sanctuary where rescued farm animals and humans have a space to bond and connect. Each rescued farm resident touches the lives of thousands of humans each year through humane education and Animal-Assisted therapy programs. Now as the Research Assistant with Pets for Life and IHAC, her lifelong passion for animal welfare and love of science and social justice have intersected.

Jyoni Tetsurō Shuler, MSc

Jyoni Shuler

Jyoni Tetsurō Shuler (she/her & they/them) holds a Joint M.Sc. in Sustainable Tourism Management from the University of Southern Denmark, University of Ljubljana, and University of Girona, and a BA in Psychology from Georgetown University. Her academic and professional background centers around sustainable development for underserved communities both in the US and abroad, with an emphasis on ecological and human health. She has over five years' experience with various nonprofit and research entities committed to improving outcomes for low-income urban and rural communities around the US, Central America, and the South Pacific. She most recently completed a year of AmeriCorps service through the Confluence Environmental Center in Portland, OR, where she co-led an environmental restoration crew comprised of low-income students of color. Now in Idaho as a Community-Based Research Assistant, she brings her combined love of animals and ardent passion for public health and social justice to the IHAC-led study on the Pets for Life intervention program through the Humane Society of the United States.