Graduate students Jade Werner, Yolonda Bradshaw, and Nicole Lorig recently attended the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) Animals in the Public Eye: Interactions and Perceptions of Animals Conference. The conference took place in Orlando, Florida from July 1-4. Students were accompanied by CHAIRE member, Dr. Kim Cole, and CHAIRE co-director Dr. Kelly George. The goal of the conference was to "examine the observed societal shift in our perceptions of multiple species with an emphasis in the areas of entertainment, exhibition of captive wildlife, cultural norms, and humane education." Both Nicole Lorig and Yolonda Bradshaw were awarded the opportunity to create and present posters of their research.
Nicole Lorig's research was titled "Undergraduate Student Perception of Animals Commonly Used in Animal-Assisted Therapy." The objective of her study was to evaluate the influence of an animal's physical characteristics, such as coat color and facial expression, on human preference for animals commonly used in assisted therapy programs. She created an online survey which included questions that displayed three images of either dogs or horses with various coat colors and facial expressions. It was concluded that prescreening for an individual's preference and experience level prior to pairing them with a therapy animal may influence therapeutic outcomes and ultimately influence therapeutic success.
When asked about her experiences at the conference Nicole stated, "The ISAZ conference was an incredible experience. Seeing the diversity of attendees and hearing about the current research being done in the field of anthrozoology was eye opening and I learned so much. It was also a really great opportunity to gain experience presenting my own research in the field and to network with colleagues across the world. Being there, however, did make me realize that that much of the research being done focuses more on the human component of human-animal interaction. Knowing this, I feel really inspired to contribute more to the field from the animal perspective."
Yolonda Bradshaw's research was titled "Faculty Perceptions of Emotional Support Animal Presence in the Classroom." The objectives of her study were to obtain an inclusive understanding of faculty members' perceptions and concerns regarding the increasing amount of requests to have emotional support animals in the classroom and to assist higher education institutions in making informed policy decisions regarding this topic. She created a survey that was distributed to all faculty members within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University. Yolonda's conclusions included that overall, CFAES faculty members were supportive of animals being present in the classroom and that faculty perceptions should be considered when developing and/or improving policies regarding support animals.
Yolonda also shared her perspective of attending and presenting at ISAZ and stated, "Overall, I truly enjoyed the opportunity to attend this conference. Being surrounded by others who share my passion for the human-animal bond and the variety of ways our worlds are interconnected allowed me to reflect on my experiences and research goals. I gained professional development by engaging with professionals in the field of anthrozoology and also presenting some of the exciting research we have been conducting at CHAIRE. There were several presentations and guest-speakers that inspired me. It served as a great reminder that no matter in what capacity or setting that we work with animals--it is meaningful, impactful, and important to society."