Dr. Alan M. Beck is a Dorothy N. McAllister Professor & Director at Center for the Human-Animal Bond, Purdue University. His book (The Ecology of Stray Dogs) is considered to be one of the class in the field of urban ecology.
How did you come up with research on Current human-animal bond course offerings in veterinary schools & what got you interested?
After conducting ecological studies focusing on deer and prairie rodents, I thought I should study up-the-food-chain and study wolves. Wolves are noble creatures but my new major professor noted that if I my studies were more “applied” I could be funded, so studied urban dogs in Baltimore (at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health). After a Post-doc in Urban Ecology, I worked for the NYC Department of Health. While there, I met people who were just beginning the new area of study addressing why pets were so popular and how pets could even be good for your health. The leader of the movement, Dr. Leo Bustad, started using the term the human-animal bond, shamelessly borrowing the term from the mother-infant bond—in both cases a relationship that is significant and mutual. I left the Health Department to direct the country’s first center to study the Human-Animal Bond.
Why is your research important? What are the possible real world applications?
The studies help explain a cross-cultural behavior, pet ownership, and direct the behavior in ways that benefit both people and their animals. Today, the use of animals to assist people in health settings is an area of study and practice around the world.
What question or challenge were you setting out to address when you started this work?
A major challenge, which is shared with all studies that involve animals, is to assure that the studies causes no harm to the animals, and if possibly, even benefits them. Another major challenge is to appreciate the variety of ways people interact with animals in the many different cultures and even sub-populations within the cultures and to appreciate the many different species involved.
What do you want to achieve with your research?
My major achievement would be to understand our relationship with not only animals but also nature in general. While I suspect not everyone needs immediate contact with animals, I feel everyone needs some interaction with nature and living processes. Pets are just one-way to appreciating nature, sort of “nature on demand.”
Tell me what you like to do when you are not working on research.
When I can, I enjoy walking, looking at birds and other natural activities, and being with family.
His research updates will be posted soon.