Greener Pastures

  • Partnered with the James River Corrections Facility to conduct research on the Greener Pastures Prison-Based Equine Program. 
  • Program is designed to pair horses with imprisoned persons for the benefit of the horse and the inmate. 
  • Program provided a Groom Elite program and certification, associated counseling for the inmates, facilitated community contact, and focused on re-entry support. 
  • National rates of recodovosm are 67%, while Greener Pastures graduates have only a 3-5% rate of recidivism.  
  • Factors of the program that were perceived as beneficial by the inmates were the teaching of marketable skills, participation in horse-human interspecies dialogue, experiencing attachment, having the barn as a safe environment, and the community built around the horse as a social bridge. 
  • Inmate’s association with the horses reduced apparent stigmas towards offenders, while they simultaneously developed friendships based on shared social links and interests. 
  • Association with the horses served to bridge the empathy gap between offenders, volunteers, staff, and community.

Pets and Healthy Aging

  • Positive association have been documented between pet (dogs specifically) ownership and healthy aging in older adults. 
  • Project is culminating in a doctoral thesis which seeks to identify and examine factors that facilitate or impair dog walking in older adults. 
  • Research is part of an interdisciplinary graduate degree program that integrates Gerontology, Building and Construction, Veterinary Medicine, and Public Health.

Preliminary Assessment of Pet Ownership in Resudential Retirement Communities

  • Collaboration with Biobuild, College of Architecture, and Center of Gerontology, and serves as a foundation for Carlisle Shealy’s PhD.
  • Warm Hearth and the Crossings have agreed to participate in a pilot study. 
  • Complete IRB during summer 2019, data collection Feb 2020.

Real-time Assessment of Equine Behavior

  • Collaboration with Engineering, and is the thesis research topic for Nathan Jones’s and Jason Doyle’s Master Degree. 
  • Project goal is to identify points on the animal’s body that define position (like eye and shoulder) and employ a continuous measure of the distance between points to develop a mathematical algorithm that describes body position.  
  • Body position (body language) is then matched with physiological measures that are associated with the animal’s “state” such as avoidance/fear, aggression/anger, interactive/inquisitive, and know information about animal cuing to develop a method for real-time computer analysis of horse welfare.
  • Video has been collected and analyzed.
  • Research was supported by Racing Funds.

Biomarkers of Animal Welfare

  • Initiating this research with study of hair cortisol concentrations as a measure of chronic stress in horses. 
  • Hair samples have been collected over 18 months and are in the process of being analyzed. 
  • Anticipate final data analysis in by winter 2022 as sample analysis has been delayed due to COVID.

Arditti JA, Morgan AA, Spiers S, Buechner-Maxwell VA, Shivy V, "Perceptions of Rehabilitative Change among Incarcerated Persons Enrolled in a Prison-Equine Program (PEP): Implications for Reentry into Family and Community Life". J. Qual Crim Justice & Criminology, 8:2019

Morgan AA, Arditti JA, Spiers S, Buechner-Maxwell VA, & Shivy V, Part 2, “Came for the Horses, Stayed for the Men”: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Staff, Community, and Reentrant Perceptions of a Prison Equine Program (PEP)". Accepted for publication, Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. 

Boyle SF, Corrigan VK, Buechner-Maxwell VA, Pierce B, "Evaluation of Risk of Zoonotic Pathogen Transmission in a University-Based Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) Program", Accepted for publication, Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Zlotnick M, Corrigan V, Griffin E, Alayon M, Hungerford L, "Incidence of Health and Behavior Problems in Service Dog Candidates Neutered at Various Ages". Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Oct 8, 2019.

Research Posters