Education & Research Programs

The center promotes education of veterinary and human health care professionals and the general public on the importance of human-animal relationships and conducts partnered, scholarly research in the field of Human Companion Animal Interaction, leading to publications, conferences, and public presentations.

MS Program in Human-Companion Animal Interaction

The Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences offers a combined ABVP residency in Canine/Feline Clinical Practice and MS degree with focus in human-animal bond studies for qualifying veterinarians. The program:

  • Offers an interdisciplinary degree encompassing a wide variety of topics, and includes classes from Virginia Tech's Department of Sociology and the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.
  • Prepares the resident for specialty certification in clinical small animal practice and to strengthen the health and welfare of human-animal interactions at national and potentially international levels.


  • The effect of the therapeutic session on salivary cortisol levels and stress related behavior in animal-assisted activity dogs.
    Funding agency: Made possible by the Nestle Purina PetCare Company, R&D Research Grants.
    PI: Dr. Bess Pierce
    Co-PI: Dr. Zenny Ng
  • Creating 3D Visualization Tools to Study Canine Puppy Socialization Behaviors
    Sponsorship agency: Institute for Creativity, Art and Technology (ICAT), Virginia Tech
    PIs: Dr. Bess Pierce and Thomas Tucker