Human-Animal Interaction and Wellness

The Research Exchange Group on Human-Animal Interaction and Wellness takes a collaborative approach to research and knowledge exchange about human-animal relations and their impact on the well-being of both people and animals.  The group welcomes participants from community, university and health systems.  We invite citizens, learners, educators, and practitioners working in any field to join us.  All you need to participate is an interest in human-animal interactions, processes, and outcomes.


October 23, 2020 at 2:00pm NST | Roundtable Discussion: Humans and Animals in the time of COVID-19 | The Research Exchange Group on Human Animal Interaction and Wellness will re-convene this month with a group discussion to catch up on the work our members have been doing and the impacts of the global pandemic on getting that work done. Some issues we can cover include:
• How has COVID-19 affected the delivery of animal-assisted therapies?
• How has our increased time at home impacted the health of our pets?
• What is the status of our members’ in-progress and planned research?
• What are the health consequences of COVID-19 for animals?
• Have you read any interesting articles on research or practice that you’d like to share with the group?
• Are there any researchable questions for our membership to consider pursuing in the coming year? Suggestions for future meeting topics?

November 20, 2020 | 2:00pm | Animal-Assisted Interventions to support pro-social behaviours in young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)| Morag Ryan is a Family Medicine resident with a Master's degree in cognitive behavioral psychology who is working on a research project exploring the use of animal-assisted therapies for young people with ASD.  The study included a survey to find out what animal therapies are being used in NL and will include an attempt to quantify perceived benefits of animal therapies by measuring oxytocin levels.  In addition, behavioural assessments will be conducted to assess some quantitative measures, pre and post animal interaction. The work is funded by the Janeway Foundation.


February 21, 2020 at 12:30pm | Research from Memorial's Canine Research Unit with Dr. Carolyn Walsh

September 20, 2019 at 12:30pm | Equine-Assisted Therapies with Dr. Gail Wideman and Rhonda Fiander

October 18, 2019 at 12:30pm | Research and Animal-Assisted Therapies- A Roundtable Discussion

November 15, 2019 at 12:30pm | Dr. Hugh Whitney on research into zoonotic diseases. These included rabies, mosquito-borne viruses, Lyme disease and MRSA/MRSP. 

Group Objectives

The group recognizes that reciprocity is an essential part of the human-animal connection.  As a result, our overarching objective will be to consider health and well-being in both human and animal terms.  Fostering compassionate and respectful interactions with animals is a crucial consideration for our membership.

Community Capacity Building | The group will build community capacity for research and practice by:

  • providing opportunities for community and university to exchange research and practice knowledge;
  • integrating community partners and people with lived experience in research collaboration: as the generators of research ideas, as leaders and catalysts for new research projects, and as full participants in the research process;
  • promoting an evidence-informed approach to community-based programs and practices;
  • supporting the evaluation of community-led programs and initiatives; and
  • disseminating research evidence to the broader community to encourage healthy human-animal interaction, including evidence to support: therapeutic best practices, respectful interactions with animals, understanding animal communications, recognizing what we can learn from interacting with animals.

Research Capacity Building | The group will build applied health research capacity by:

  • fostering a multidisciplinary and inclusive approach to research by building connections among people working in diverse disciplines;
  • creating new opportunities for collaboration among university and community partners;
  • identifying knowledge gaps and promoting research to fill them;
  • facilitating and supporting student research; and
  • locating and sharing research funding opportunities.

Networking | The group will provide an opportunity for people with a shared interest in human-animal interaction to meet and to connect.

Research Themes

Group members have identified the following research themes as being of interest:

  • Research on Animal-Assisted Therapies: understanding how animal-assisted therapies work, who can benefit from them, potential new environments where they might be applied, the mechanisms that underpin successful therapies, the well-being of the therapy animal, and mixed-methods approaches to provide qualitative and quantitative evidence for their effectiveness;
  • Research on human and animal behaviour, psychology, and neuroscience;
  • Research that seeks to understand human/animal communication and promotes a better understanding of animal behaviour;
  • Research into the health impacts of pet ownership for people and animals;
  • Research on the effects of humanization on animal well-being and behaviour;
  • Research that looks at the role of animal interaction in promoting healthy aging and positive later-life experiences;
  • Research into arts and health initiatives and other potential combination therapies that involve human and animal interaction;
  • Research into public policy impacts on healthy human-animal interactions;
  • Research that identifies and seeks to fill knowledge gaps in the domain of human-animal interaction and wellness;
  • Research into cultural components that have an impact on human and animal interaction.

Seeking Your Input: Fall 2020 Meetings

Please contact us to:

  • volunteer to present your research, practice, or programming to the group;
  • suggest a researcher or practitioner whose work is of interest  (our webinar capacity enables us to invite speakers from anywhere to present to the group);
  • suggest an article that the group might read or a topic for a roundtable discussion;
  • confirm that monthly meetings will be an appropriate frequency for your schedule;
  • advise your preferred weekdays and times to meet.


Newfoundland & Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000