Shannon Kelley, co-president of Human Animal Interactions Club, holding a peccary in Roatan, Honduras where she volunteered to travel with the World Vets to help with an exotic rescue during spring break. Credit: Courtesy of Shannon Kelley

Discussing the health benefits of petting dogs and taking cheetahs for walks are just two ways members of the Human Animal Interactions Club spend their weekly meetings.

The new Human Animal Interactions Club, whose first meeting was in late January, discusses the different relationships that exist between humans and animals. The club also helps connect students to faculty members who have interest in the subject to open up more research opportunities and projects.

Shannon Kelley, co-president of Human Animal Interactions and a second-year in animal sciences, said the club is based on four pillars of human-animal interactions: animal welfare and behavior, conservation, therapy animals and companion animals.

“We talk about the aspects of those interactions, like how humans and animals interact and how that relates to human medicine,” Kelley said. “For example, they say petting a dog helps improve your cardiovascular health. That’s the kind of research we discuss.”

The club is currently collaborating with Dr. Louisa Richmond-Coggan, founding partner and project manager of a project called ConservationFIT, to help collect data for a new app.

Hannah Bradley, co-president of Human Animal Interactions and a third-year in zoology, said the app will allow researchers to take a photo of animal tracks in the wild and be able to know what species it is, its gender, how old it might be and possible relationships with other members of its species.

“Their goal is to to have a big database full of paw prints from different species,” Bradley said. “So at the Columbus Zoo, we walk some cheetahs through sand, get the picture of their paw prints, get some measurements and add it to the database.”

The club isn’t just for animal sciences majors, Kelley said. The topics discussed in club meetings are broad and relate to other majors as well.

“We have international business majors, public health majors, zoology majors,” Kelley said. “We want to branch out to other colleges and majors so that we can help connect those kids to faculty members or different places where they can have experience in human-animal interactions.”

The club’s next major event is planned for April 23, where Dr. Rustin Moore, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, will speak to the club at the Union Senate Chamber.

“He’ll be talking about the relations between pets and humans, and how they are a part of One Health Initiative,” Kelley said. “One Health Initiative is basically combining veterinary and human medicine to better both sides.”

The Human Animal Interactions Club offers open membership, and meets Thursdays at 6:30 p.m in Kottman Hall room 102.