Pfizer Animal Health and American Humane Association today announced a partnership to conduct a study on the impact of animal-assisted therapy on pediatric oncology patients, as well as on their parents, caregivers, siblings, and other close family members.

The partnership — which includes a $282,000 grant from Pfizer and the Pfizer Foundation — exemplifies the strategic goal of both organizations to better quantify in clinical terms what many in health care already realize as the extraordinary power of the human-animal bond.

“This important research will measure the impact of animal-assisted therapy on pediatric oncology patients and their families, thus furthering the fields of research on human-animal interaction and integrated therapies for conditions such as cancer in children,” said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, Diplomate ABVP and Group Director of Veterinary Medical Services & Corporate Citizenship for Pfizer Animal Health. “We are proud to be part of the work that American Humane Association is doing — showing the far-reaching benefits of pets to our society.”

This partnership with American Humane Association’s Child Protection Research Center and Animal-Assisted Therapy Program is an example of the Pfizer Animal Health Commitment to Veterinarians platform — which addresses the many challenges facing the veterinary profession through training and education, research and development, investing in the future, philanthropic efforts and the development of understanding around the human-animal bond.

Over the next three years, American Humane Association and Pfizer Animal Health will work with a total of 150 children at up to five hospitals or clinical settings throughout the United States that treat children with cancer. Researchers will examine the medical, behavioral and mental health benefits of animal-assisted therapy to quantify the effect on the family as a whole.

“Anyone who has ever seen a child turn to her pet for solace during a difficult time knows that a beneficial interaction is taking place there,” said Robin R. Ganzert, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of American Humane Association. “Our goal is to fully understand, from a scientific perspective, what is happening in these types of interactions with children undergoing cancer treatment. The question we are looking to answer is: In what ways can animal-assisted therapy improve the health and well-being of children — and their families — in their fight against cancer?”

Pfizer Animal Health also has recently become a Founding Partner in HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Initiative) Foundation, which will deliver data, a central hub of research, awareness and evidence-based education about the impact of the human-animal bond. And, in 2009, Pfizer Animal Health funded a study to be completed this year that will formally measure clinical outcomes from therapy dog interactions with adult patients in inpatient oncology treatment and outpatient chemotherapy infusion settings. The study is being led by the Good Dog Foundation at the Continuum Cancer Centers of New York at Beth Israel Medical Center.