The Center for Human-Animal Interactions Research and Education (CHAIRE) held its welcome event on Thursday, December 7. CHAIRE is committed to expanding our knowledge of the interrelationships between people, animals and the environment. Visitors of all ages were able to learn about CHAIRE, as well as, view and interact with animals representing CHAIRE’s four focus areas: welfare and behavior, conservation, zooeyia (positive health benefits on people of interacting with animals), and companionship.
Throughout the evening, the importance of the responsibility of humans in the human-animal interaction was stressed. Animal Sciences Associate Professor and CHAIRE Director, Dr. Anthony Parker, started the evening by stressing human accountability, “It’s up to us to ensure the human-animal relationship is better understood. But, it’s also important to understand that both sides should benefit from the interaction.”
This theme continued throughout the evening as each of the four focus areas were introduced. While discussing conservation, the Director of Animal Management at The Wilds, Dan Beetem, told the story of raising and starting the reintroduction into the wild of a Scimitar-Horned Oryx, a species that is extinct in the wild outside of protected areas, “Humans were responsible for over-hunting and the destruction of the animals’ natural habitat. But we are also responsible for overseeing a breeding program in zoos and conservation centers that will help lead to their reintroduction and conservation in their natural habitat.” Dr. Monique Pairis-Garcia, Animal Sciences Assistant Professor, stressed similar levels of responsibility for agricultural animals while discussing welfare and behavior. She reminded the audience that while the animals are often meant for service to humans or as food sources, it is important that their quality of life is preserved during their service.
Other CHAIRE members discussed ways that humans can fulfill or learn more about their obligations in the human-animal interaction relationship. CHAIRE Steering Committee member and Animal Sciences Assistant Professor, Dr. Kelly George, stressed the importance of education while discussing conservation. She told about her trips to South Africa with students, “It’s an eye-opening experience for the students. They get to see conservation efforts of critically endangered animals first-hand.” Dr. Lucinda Miller, Extension Specialist - 4-H Livestock, Companion & Small Animal Programs, explained that learning how to appropriately care for animals can occur anywhere. While surrounded by service dogs and their handlers, she explained that learning about the reciprocal human-animal relationship can occur at any age. Dr. Miller indicated that this reciprocal relationship is one of the primary goals of 4-H. While defining zooeyia, Dr. Teresa Burns, College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor, provided an example of how those in attendance were fulfilling their obligation, “How many of you petted the miniature donkey? How many of you smiled? That’s zooeyia. But the kindness you showed to the donkey with your touch is just as important.”
The evening also included the opportunity to interact with a variety of animals. Throughout the evening, guests were able to interact with service dogs, goats, a miniature donkey, and rabbits. Handlers from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium made a special appearance with: a baby warthog, a swift fox, a penguin, a screech owl, a bobcat and a red-tailed hawk. The companion dog for the bobcat also made a brief appearance.
While CHAIRE is housed within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), The College of Veterinary Medicine and The College of Social Work are vital partners in the CHAIRE initiative. The CHAIRE initiative was inspired by the Department of Animal Sciences’ departmental academic review, which determined the department’s purpose is to obtain and communicate data-based answers to questions involving traditional topics like efficiency and quality as well as the ethics, challenges, and opportunities that may be embedded in those questions and other queries. Whether the context is the animal industry, conservation of animals, animal companionship, or other animal roles, those seeking answers deserve information based on facts, an idea embedded in the department’s motto: “Advancing knowledge for the betterment of animals and humans”. To learn more about CHAIRE, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or follow CHAIRE on Facebook (@OSUCHAIRE).