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Featured Profile: Rebecca Johnson


Rebecca Johnson

University of Missouri researcher Dr. Rebecca Johnson proves that the human-animal bond can benefit people and animals.

At MU’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), Johnson and her collaborators provide research-based evidence of benefits offered by companion animals. Among other findings, the researchers have demonstrated that pet ownership provides stress relief, better child-to-child interaction and improved communication – a finding that could be especially helpful for children with autism and other developmental disorders.

Johnson has instituted a community program called “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound,” which matches shelter dogs with people needing to exercise. Participants’ walking speed increases significantly after dog walking, and they show increased physical activity outside of the walks. Johnson also pairs shelter dogs with veterans. Working alongside a trainer, the vets teach skills to make dogs more adoptable. Some also help train future service dogs for other vets dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. The veterans in the program show reduced levels of stress.

Recently, Johnson studied veterans who rode horses in a six-week program. Cortisone levels showed the horses were not unduly stressed by working in therapeutic riding, and the vets’ post-traumatic stress levels decreased significantly.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson is an award-winning researcher and professor of gerontological nursing, public policy and veterinary medicine. She founded and directs ReCHAI, a collaboration between the Sinclair School of Nursing and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine