Click here to see lightbox content 1

Become a monthly supporter today!

American Humane Association and University of Denver create $2 million endowed chair to research human-animal connection

share with Twitter email this

Graduate School of Social Work to lead research in animal-assisted therapy

DENVER - The Denver-based American Humane Association and the University of Denver (DU) have established the American Humane Endowed Chair in DU’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). The $2 million endowed chair is one of the first in the nation created to explore the expanding field of animal-assisted social work and research the bond between humans and animals.

“The field has gained momentum,” said GSSW Dean James Herbert Williams. “This is a perfect time to inform the profession through the kind of rigorous research this endowment will allow.”

American Humane and DU are forging a dynamic partnership to advance research nationally into the human-animal bond. American Humane and the Animal Assistance Foundation provided seed money to establish DU’s Institute for Human-Animal Connection, whose mission is to conduct research, training and education from a human-service and animal-welfare perspective. American Humane’s resources on animal cruelty and violence in society are hosted by DU’s Penrose Library. The newly endowed chair perpetuates this partnership by focusing research on the therapeutic benefits of animal interaction as well as the connection between animal abuse and violence toward humans.

“As early as 1894, American Humane publicly discussed the suspected link between animal abuse and other forms of social violence,” said Marie Belew Wheatley, president and CEO of American Humane. “Over the years, our organization has continued to examine this subject and inform educators, social workers and others about that important connection in our effort to help break the cycle of violence. This chair and our partnership with DU will be instrumental in advancing the scholarly study of all aspects of the human-animal connection, including documenting the benefits—to both people and animals—of the human-animal bond.”

A national search is under way for an academic professional to fill the newly endowed chair. The new chair will lead the institute’s research efforts and assist GSSW’s animal-related academic programs, which include a certificate program in animal-assisted social work and an online professional development program entitled “Animals and Human Health.”

As relationships between humans and animals become more important and more complex, there is growing evidence of the effectiveness of therapy involving humans and animals, said Williams. Interaction with animals has been shown to increase trust, improve communication and enhance sensory-motor skills in social work clients. The new chair, in conjunction with the institute, will try to confirm the effectiveness of such treatment through research.

DU is hosting a celebration to announce the new American Humane Endowed Chair at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at Craig Hall on the DU campus. Visit for building and parking locations or call (303) 871-2775 for more information.

The University of Denver (, the oldest private university in the Rocky Mountain region, enrolls approximately 11,117 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Denver as a Research University with high research activity. The Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) is the oldest school of social work in the Rocky Mountain region. Its Master of Social Work (MSW) program is ranked in the top quarter of all accredited graduate social work programs by U.S. News & World Report, and it is home to the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, the country’s first university-based program devoted to animal-assisted social work.

About American Humane Association

Since 1877, the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty and abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society. As the nation’s voice for the protection of children and animals, 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.

« Back

  Please enter your contact information.






If you respond and have not already registered, you will receive periodic updates and communications from American Humane Association.


What's this?

   Please leave this field empty