Research initiatives focus on animal health, human-animal bond

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The American Veterinary Medical Foundation is one of the organizations developing an Animal Health Network to fund research on feline, canine, and equine health, while the AVMA is participating in a Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative to study the health benefits of the human-animal bond.

At its April meeting, the AVMA Executive Board approved recommendations in support of both research initiatives.

For several years, the AVMA Council on Research has been working with the AVMF on plans for an Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Research to fund feline, canine, and equine health studies.

The Council on Research believes that the Animal Health Network now taking shape, with the participation of the AVMF, embodies the concept of the Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Research.

Dr. L. Garry Adams, chair of the AVMF Animal Health Studies Subcommittee, said much of the currently available funding for animal health research is for studies on the health of production animals.

"This is a very exciting development to begin the process of more adequately funding basic and applied research for dogs, cats, and horses," Dr. Adams said.

KittenThe Animal Health Network started in early 2011 with a species-specific pilot effort, the Cat Health Network, to fund feline health studies. The partners in the Cat Health Network are the AVMF, Morris Animal Foundation, Winn Feline Foundation, and American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Morris is providing feline genotyping arrays for the Cat Health Network, and the other three organizations are providing research funds—with about $100,000 to be available annually. The network issued a request for research proposals focusing on genetic causes of, and cures for, feline diseases, with the application deadline in late March.

Dr. Adams said the Animal Health Network eventually will encompass research projects relevant to canine and equine health. He said the hope is to involve practicing veterinarians as a linkage to dog, cat, and horse owners who could provide monetary donations for the research network.

In April, the AVMA Council on Research asked that the AVMA board reaffirm the concept of the Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Research to signal support of the AVMF's ongoing efforts to develop the concept, regardless of the name of the final organizational structure. The board approved the recommendation.

Separately, on recommendation of the AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond, the board approved the AVMA becoming a member of the steering committee for the new Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation.

The foundation aims to recognize, advance, and promote the role of companion animals and other animals in the health of families and communities. The founding members are the American Pet Products Association, Petco Animal Supplies Inc., and Pfizer Animal Health.

The first major project of the foundation will be to create an online hub providing access to research and other reliable sources of information on the human-animal bond. Purdue University will develop and host the hub.