Virginia Tech - Invent the Future
   The Human-Animal Bond Symposium and Service Award - March 6, 2015 - The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center - Blacksburg, VA


Keynote speaker:


Some of Philip Tedeschi's best friends are animals. He has studied and teaches about the intricate relationship between people, domestic and wild animals and the natural world.

Clinical Professor Philip Tedeschi is the Executive Director of The Institute for Human-Animal Connection at The University of Denver within the Graduate School of Social Work. He is internationally recognized for research, scholarship, training and community practice work have focused on human-animal interaction with focus on both the therapeutic potential of animal’s in human health as well as public safety and risk factors associated with animal abuse. He teaches practitioners best practice and evidence supported clinical methods for Animal Assisted Interventions. He coordinates the schools Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate Program for the Master of Social Work (MSW) students as well as the globally recognized Animals and Human Health online professional development certificate. Professor Tedeschi is an experiential therapy specialist and co-founder of the Institute for Human–Animal Connection programs at the University of Denver. Professor Tedeschi teaches MSW courses in forensic social work and experiential therapy approaches, with emphasis on social ecology, animal welfare, conservation, environmental and international social work. Professor Tedeschi is a certified Master Therapeutic Riding Instructor, former course director and instructor with Outward Bound and a wilderness medical technician. He has many years of experience in non-traditional therapeutic approaches with children, adults and families well as program development and intervention in interpersonal violence. He has specialized in assessment and intervention with animal abuse, and human cruelty, empathy development and attachment, trauma remediation and sexually and violence with youth and adults. He has worked extensively in the treatment of victims of abuse.


Internationally acclaimed lecturer, author and educator Phil Arkow is coordinator of the National Link Coalition – the National Resource Center on The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence – and editor of its monthly LINK-Letter. He chairs the Latham Foundation’s Animal Abuse and Family Violence Prevention Project. He teaches Animal Abuse and Human Violence courses at the University of Florida and Animal-Assisted Therapy courses at Harcum College and Camden County College. He trains internationally and has presented over 200 times in 15 countries and 38 states, and has authored or edited over 60 key reference works in the field of human-animal interactions and violence prevention.

He was one of the founders of the National Link Coalition, the National Animal Control Association, and the Colorado and New Jersey federations of animal welfare agencies. He has served with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, the American Humane Association, the Delta Society, the Animals & Society Institute, the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals, the National District Attorneys Association, and the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians. He recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from New Jersey Child Assault Prevention.


Dede Beasley, M.Ed., LPC has been blending her counseling and equestrian skills together for almost 20 years. As an equine-assisted psychotherapist, she brings her innovative skills as an experiential therapist to her life-long passion with horses. She has been with The Ranch Treatment Program in Nunnelly, Tennessee since its inception in 1999. Through the years, Dede has gained a reputation for her own unique model of equine therapy with clients.

Dede is a member of Path International and their equine-assisted psychotherapy division, EFMHA. She is also certified by The Board of Certified Interactive Professionals as a mental health provider and is a certified riding instructor through The Council for Horsemanship and Safety (CHA).

In addition to her work with The Ranch, Dede does some private practice equine work and training from her farm in Ashland City, Tennessee. She has also worked with other treatment centers and agencies in Middle Tennessee, including Cumberland Heights, Onsite and Youth Villages. Her work has been featured in several publications, including Counselor Magazine. Dede's true story, "The Promise," is included in the anthology, The Healing Touch of Horses (Adams Publishing, A Bronwyn Llewellyn, Ed.) Her equine work at The Ranch is also featured as part of a BBC documentary about treatment of sexual addiction.

Dr. Trent Davis is a counselor at Cook Counseling center that enjoys working with individual, groups and couples in therapy. His professional interests include depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse and serious mental illness. Davis focuses on stress management and wellness in his clinical work. His therapeutic influences are humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, systematic and interpersonal theories.

Davis holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Virginia Tech and is a licensed professional counselor.

Dr. Zenithson Ng is a clinical assistant professor of the Community Practice Service at the University of Tennessee. He received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and DVM from Cornell University; then completed an internship at the ASPCA, and an ABVP residency combined with a master’s degree in human-animal bond studies at Virginia Tech. He is board certified in Canine and Feline Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. His interests span all aspects of the human-animal bond including animal-assisted interventions, veterinary-client communications, and animal welfare.


Meg Daley Olmert, Director of Research

Meg Daley Olmert is a leading expert on the biology of the human-animal bond. Her ground-breaking book, Made For Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond (DaCapo, 2009) is the first book to explain the brain chemistry that flows through—and between—all mammals forging deep social bonds between the species. This newly discovered brain network also activates a powerful anti-stress response that creates the physical and psychological sense of wellbeing we experience through friendly contact with animals. Meg lectures widely and is a media consultant on this subject. She has also produced and written documentaries for PBS, National Geographic, and The Discovery Channel. Meg is now the Director of Research for Warrior Canine Connection, an innovative service-dog therapy intervention for the treatment of combat PTSD. The Department of Defense has authorized funding to investigate the biological basis of the therapeutic effects experienced by participants in this most promising complementary medical intervention.


Dr. Cindy Otto, a 1986 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, received her small animal internal medicine residency and PhD training from the University of Georgia. She is currently a tenured associate professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, where she is active in clinical care, research and teaching. She is a board certified specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care and serves as an attending veterinarian in the Ryan Veterinary Hospital Emergency Service. She is the faculty advisor for the Veterinary School pet therapy program, VetPets and course organizer for the Exploring the Human Animal Bond independent study course.

Dr. Otto has been involved in disaster medicine as an active member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 since 1994 (including deployments to Hurricane Floyd and 9/11) and the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team-2 since 1999 (deploying to Hurricane Katrina). She is the founding director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She has been monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue canines since October of 2001, through an AKC-CHF funded grant (now in its third renewal). She has established the AKC-CAR Detection Dog DNA bank. She is active in educating search dog handlers and members of the working dog community in canine care.

Dr. Otto was named Pennsylvania's 2002 "Veterinarian of the Year" and received an Alumni Recognition Award in 2006 and the OSU Distinguished Alumus Award in 2008 from the Ohio State University. She is involved in dog training, dog sports (flyball, agility, and tricks), and pet therapy, with her rescued Bichon mix, Dolce.


Dr. Bess J. Pierceis an Associate Professor in the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition, she serves as director of the Center for Animal Human Relationships, an academic center conducting instructional, research, and outreach programs designed to foster a greater understanding of the mutual benefits and the challenges associated with human-animal interactions.

Serving more than 22 years on active and reserve duty in the US Army Veterinary Corps, Dr. Pierce has experienced a variety of assignments worldwide including California, two tours in Japan and several years at the Military Working Dog Center in San Antonio, Texas. She is currently a colonel in the US Army Reserve, assigned to the Public Health Command Region-Europe. Early in her military career, she developed a passion for working dogs and their handlers, which continues to this day.

Dr. Pierce earned a B.S. in biology from Tulane University in 1986, an M.Z.S. in wildlife biology in 1990 and a DVM from Auburn University in 1992. Her honors include five US Army Meritorious Service Medals, and the 2015 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award given by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Christine Dennis Smith directs the Women's Center's Counseling and Advocacy Program. She also oversees our outreach and educational efforts on issues related to violence against women. Christine, along with other Women's Center staff, provides the following services to students, faculty, and staff who are victims of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and/or harassment: crisis intervention, short term counseling, advocacy, accompaniment to law enforcement, medical facilities, and judicial proceedings, and information and referral. Christine is also available to do educational presentations and trainings to student, faculty, and staff groups.

Christine joined the Women's Center is June of 2001. She has extensive experience working with survivors of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. Christine has a Master's in Social Work (M.S.W.) and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (L.C.S.W).


Mr. Rick Yount, M.S, LSW
Founder/Executive Director - Warrior Canine Connection

Rick Yount has served in the field of social work for 25 years. He has involved Animal Assisted Therapy in his practice for the past 15 of those years. Rick holds a B.A. degree from West Virginia University and a M.S. degree in Assistance Dog Education. He combined his social work knowledge and experience with his service dog training background to develop a novel intervention to help Service Members with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rick pioneered the first therapeutic service dog training program at the Palo Alto, CA Veterans Hospital in 2008.

Rick's new program concept, involving Veterans with PTSD in the training of mobility service dogs for fellow Veterans, yielded very positive results. He has presented the program concept at forums including the VA National Mental Health Conference and the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.

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