Published: Sept. 18, 2003


Contact: Lana Kaiser, College of Nursing, (517) 353-5231,; or Tom Oswald, University Relations, (517) 355-2281,


EAST LANSING, Mich. - How a pet can help a chronically ill child, a unique look at the mysteries of feline behavior, and a talk by nationally known veterinarian and media personality Marty Becker are part of the third annual Human Animal Bond Initiative Conference at Michigan State University.

"The Science Behind Our Relationship with Animals: Cuddle a Critter and Call Me in the Morning" is Oct. 10-11 at the MSU Kellogg Center. Now in its third year, the conference brings together some of the world's top experts to discuss research that confirms what many already suspect: interaction between humans and animals positively impacts health and quality of life.

"Although this is a relatively new field of study, tremendous strides are being made in the field of the human-animal bond and human-animal interactions," said Lana Kaiser, a professor of nursing and co-founder of MSU's Human Animal Bond Initiative. "I think it's becoming quite obvious that there are numerous health benefits to having a pet."

Becker, a nationally known veterinarian, author and regular contributor to ABC's "Good Morning America," will speak at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, in the Kellogg Center Auditorium. His topic: "The Healing Power of Pets: It's Not Just Anecdotal Anymore."

Becker is the author of the 1999 best seller "Chicken Soup for the Cat and Dog Lover's Soul" and the fastest-selling pet book in history, "Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul."

Other featured speakers include:

  • Sally Walshaw, a former MSU veterinarian and co-founder of the Human Animal Bond Initiative, who will speak on "Finding Your Perfect Feline: Temperament Testing in Cats."
  • Linda Spence, an MSU professor of nursing who will present preliminary research findings on how pets can help chronically ill children.
  • Camie Heleski, an MSU animal science instructor who will speak on "Attitudes Toward Food Animal Welfare."
  • Annique Lavergne, a clinical psychologist who specializes in human-animal bond issues who will discuss "Bereavement After the Death of a Companion Animal."

Founded in 2001, the Human Animal Bond Initiative brings together researchers from the colleges of Nursing, Human Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Social Science, and Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as community members from throughout the state.

The goal of the initiative is to better understand the interactions between humans and animals and to better assess how animals enrich human lives.

The conference is sponsored by MSU's College of Nursing, School of Social Work, and the Department of Animal Science.

For additional information on the Human Animal Bond Initiative and the conference, access the initiative's Web site at