CHF-Funded Researcher Receives Prestigious Veterinary Award


AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) funded researcher, Benjamin L. Hart, has been honored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year. Dr. Hart is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Director of the Program for Companion Animal Behavior at the University of California–Davis.

This prestigious honor is given annually and is named for the late Leo K. Bustad, DVM, PhD, a former dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University and a past president of the Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society). The Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award recognizes the outstanding work of veterinarians in preserving and protecting human-animal relationships and is co-sponsored by the AVMA, Pet Partners, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. Dr. Hart, a long-time leader in human-animal bond associations, is also deeply committed to helping pet owners advocate for their dogs, successfully mingling compassion with science to the great benefit of animals and society.

CHF recently funded Dr. Hart to lead the first-ever detailed study in a single breed – in this case the Golden Retriever – on the effects of neutering on the incidence of cancer diagnoses and joint disorders as a function of gender and whether the dogs were neutered early (before 12 months old), late (12 months or older), or left intact. The study, published in February 2013 in the prominent, open access journal PLOS One, suggests that veterinarians should be more cautious about the ages at which they recommend clients spay and neuter in order to protect the overall health of dogs. The paper has garnered a large number of views and social media shares.

Recipients of the Bustad award have demonstrated accomplishments not only through their actions, but through their words. They have exhibited special sensitivity to the human-companion animal bond, provided community service, held leadership roles in human-companion animal interactive programs that serve the community, taught the next generation of veterinarians and scientists the value of human-animal interactions, and have robust research careers aimed at increasing our understanding of human-companion animal interactions. In short, the recipients of the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year award are recognized for their life-long dedication to the sanctity of the human-animal bond.

Having worked in the area of gonadal hormones and behavior for decades, Dr. Hart felt the need to spearhead a research program on the effects of gonadal hormone withdrawal by neutering on health parameters of dogs, using a breed-by-breed process. According to Dr. Hart, “Funding from the Canine Health Foundation was absolutely essential in enabling our team to move forward in this new venture. My goal, recognized by CHF, is giving dog caregivers the information they need to be directly involved in neutering decisions as related to the long-term health of their dogs.” 

According to Dr. Shila Nordone, Chief Scientific Officer of CHF, “We are privileged to work with experts like Dr. Hart who enable us to accomplish our vision to address the health needs of all dogs across their entire lifetime by focusing on all aspects of their physical, mental, and social well-being. Dr. Hart’s work exemplifies the value of the relationship between people and their dogs and has significantly strengthened our foundation’s efforts to help all dogs live longer, healthier lives.”

The Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award consists of a physical award and a $5,000 grant to further work on the human-animal bond.

Additional Spay and Neuter Resources

To learn more about the potential health implications of early spay and neuter, we recommend the following:

Podcast with Dr. Hart on his early spay and neuter research

Pet Spay-Neuter Studies Spotlight Health Risks, Benefits

Determining the Best Age to Spay or Neuter

Help Future Generations of Dogs

Participate in canine health research by providing samples or by enrolling in a clinical trial. Samples are needed from healthy dogs and dogs affected by specific diseases.

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