MU professor leads group interested in human-animal interaction

Friday, September 24, 2010 | 2:49 p.m. CDT; updated 4:18 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 24, 2010

COLUMBIA — MU nursing professor Rebecca Johnson was appointed president of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations at the group’s triennial conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in July.

The association, founded in 1990, brings together groups that have an interest in the link between animals and humans.

“As president, I hope to lead IAHAIO in the human-animal interaction field, help young scholars and advance research,” Johnson said.

Johnson is the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing and Public Policy at MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing. She also is director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Johnson has studied the benefits of programs such as Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, in Columbia. Community members walk shelter dogs at the Central Missouri Humane Society. That sort of activity, she said, gets people thinking more about exercise and, therefore, their physical activity increases.

Johnson also is leading a new study that has veterans training shelter dogs in Columbia and Springfield. The study will examine the side effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in the veterans and the increase in the adoptability of the dogs.

“Human-animal interaction is a rapidly growing field,” Johnson said. “Lots of research points to how important human-animal interaction is for the health of both humans and animals.”

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