TOPEKA, Kan. (October 6, 2000) -To the residents of a Tuskegee, Ala. nursing home and AIDS patients throughout the United States, Dr. Caroline Schaffer is a symbol of hope. Founder and director of the Center for the Study of Human-Animal Interdependent Relationships at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tuskegee University, Dr. Schaffer understands the importance of the connection between people and animals, especially to those who are elderly or ill. Her work has gained hundreds of admirers, and now it’s receiving national recognition as well.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Delta Society and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., have selected Schaffer as the recipient of the 2000 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award. The Bustad Award is named for the late Dr. Leo K. Bustad, former President of the Delta Society and dean of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The prestigious annual award, which will be presented at the Tufts Animal EXPO 2000 in Boston on October 12, recognizes Schaffer’s outstanding work as a veterinarian in promoting the human-animal bond in her profession and her community.

Because Schaffer has spent her entire professional life studying the human-animal relationship, she is thrilled to receive this award. “The award is named after Dr. Leo Bustad, so it is a special honor. He made an enormous contribution to the world with his groundbreaking studies in the human-animal bond. I hope I am able to accomplish even a small portion of what he did.”

There is no doubt she’s making contributions to the veterinary medical profession. Throughout Schaffer’s 30-year career she has participated in numerous professional organizations, such as the AVMA, the Alabama VMA, the Ohio VMA, Delta Society and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, and Tuskegee University’s Human-Animal Behavior Club, all of which promote the importance of the human-animal bond.

Schaffer currently serves as immediate past president of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and is a member of the Board of Directors of People, Animals, Nature, Inc.

One of Schaffer’s most significant accomplishments centers on people living with HIV/AIDS. Schaffer co-authored a brochure titled “HIV/AIDS and Pet Ownership” that advises immunocompromised people about their pet ownership options. Schaffer said her goal is to make people understand that having a disease such as AIDS does not mean a person cannot keep and properly care for a pet. By widely distributing her brochures to veterinarians, public health workers, physicians, she’s teaching safe pet selection and ownership for immunocompromised people.

“Dr. Schaffer’s work with AIDS patients highlights the importance of the human animal bond. Many of these patients have only their pets and the love that they provide. Her work highlights the best that our profession can offer to both humans and animals,” said Dr. James E. Nave, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“I get letters from people saying, ‘I wish I’d gotten this brochure last week. My physician made me get rid of my pet and I’m just devastated,”‘ Schaffer said. “As veterinarians, we understand the risks and cycles of diseases, and we can take that knowledge and explain it to people who want to keep their pets – this is work that touches many lives.”

In all that she does, Schaffer stresses the well-being of animals as well as people. For people taking their pets to nursing homes, for example, she and veterinary medical students at Tuskegee University produced a video tape that shows how to let the pet say, through its body language, whether it even wants to be hugged by strangers.

Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, director of Professional Affairs for Hill’s, and former AVMA President, sees Schaffer as an inspiration for veterinarians to continue promoting the human-animal bond through their work. “The human-animal bond is truly the glue that binds veterinarians together as we serve society,” said Leininger. “By Dr. Schaffer’s sparkling example, we can clearly see the strength and joy of that important connection.”

The Bustad Award is co-sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Delta Society and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. The American Veterinary Medical Association is a professional organization of more than 64,000 veterinarians, headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill. The Association will hold it’s 138th annual meeting, ‘Preserving Our Heritage, Revolutionizing Our Future,’ in Boston, July 14-18, 2001.

Delta Society® is an international, non-profit, human service organization with a very unique mission. By uniting millions of people who have mental and physical illnesses and disabilities with professionally trained animals, Delta programs improve human health through service and therapy animals. Delta Pet Partners® trains volunteers and screens their pets for participation in animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and schools.

Delta also provides consultations and referrals for people who seek specifically trained service dogs that can alert to sounds, guide around obstacles, retrieve dropped articles or provide physical and emotional support. Starting in 2001, Delta’s Service Dog Trainer’s Curriculum will train thousands more service dog trainers.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. manufactures Science Diet® brand pet foods, sold through veterinarians and finer pet food stores, and Prescription Diet® brand pet foods, therapeutic foods available only through veterinarians. Founded more than 50 years ago by one veterinarian’s unique commitment to pet nutrition and well being, Hill’s® follows its mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets by producing the most scientifically advanced, highest quality pet foods available.

Note: Award Presentation
October 12, 2000, 5:30 p.m.
Tuft’s Animal EXPO 2000
Hynes Convention Center
Room 302
Boston, MA



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