Science on Tap talk to feature discussion on human-animal bond

August 20, 2015  

Maggie O'Haire

Maggie O'Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction in the College of Veterinary Medicine, will speak at the Aug. 27 Science on Tap in the upstairs of Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University comparative pathobiology professor Maggie O'Haire will outline the research that gives credence to the special bond that exists between humans and their pets at next week's Science on Tap.

Her talk, titled "The Science Behind the Human-Animal Bond," will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, in the upstairs of Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette. The event is free and open to anyone 21 or older. Sponsors are the Department of Comparative Pathobiology, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Biomedical Engineering and Discovery Park.

"The popular press is rife with examples of the positive value of pets for people. But does the research support these compelling stories? In this talk, you will discover the latest science behind our bond with man's best friend and other species," O'Haire said. "From heart disease to autism to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), this session will unveil cutting-edge research that investigates the therapeutic value of animals for humans."

O'Haire, an assistant professor of human-animal interaction in the College of Veterinary Medicine, recently received a grant from the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation to lead a first-of-its-kind controlled scientific study to measure the effects of service dogs on post 9-11 war veterans with PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Participants in the K9s For Warriors program, a nonprofit organization pairing war veterans with service dogs, will take part in the study. O'Haire and her team will monitor the health and wellness of the K9s For Warriors participants including medical, physiological and self-perception indicators.

To date, only anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that veterans who have service dogs may demonstrate better health and wellness compared with those receiving other treatment services while on the waitlist for a service dog. O'Haire's latest study will evaluate these claims.

O'Haire received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Vassar College in New York and her doctorate in psychology from The University of Queensland in Australia. She currently leads a program of research within the Center for the Human Animal Bond and the Center for Animal Welfare Science. Her research team focuses on studying the unique and pervasive effects of interactions with animals. In addition to working with service dogs for veterans with PSTD and TBI, projects include classroom-based, animal-assisted intervention for children.

Science on Tap, led by graduate students Nelda Vazquez, Andrew Hesselbrock and Paula Cooper, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience. The monthly event has averaged 80 attendees per talk during the program's first four years. 

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, 

Sources: Maggie O'Haire, 765-494-7472, 

Nelda Vazquez, 765-496-1487,

Andrew Hesselbrock,

Paula Cooper,  

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