The Center for the Study of Animal Well-Being (CSAW) at Washington State University began as a cooperative effort between the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) in 1993. The People-Pet Partnership (PPP), founded by the late CVM Dean Leo K. Bustad in 1979, was integrated as a unit of CSAW in 1999.
The main objectives of CSAW are (1) to generate and disseminate new knowledge aimed at understanding and enhancing the well-being of animals and the mutual benefits of human-animal interaction, and (2) to provide educational programs and public services emphasizing animal well-being and mutually beneficial human-animal interactions. In establishing CSAW, the university recognized that, although domestic and wild animals provide important emotional, economic, ecological, and health benefits to humanity, their use for human benefit raises complex ethical and philosophical challenges. Animal use in education, research, food production, entertainment, healthcare, and as companions and assistants is attracting increasingly intense public scrutiny and concern for animal rights and well-being.
Yet, there is little sound scientific information upon which to base policy on behalf of animals. CSAW aims to provide such scientific knowledge on animal well-being by developing and accessing indicators of animal well-being (e.g., animal behavior, clinical health, preferences and motivations, cognition, emotions, neurobiology, stress physiology, immune function), investigating the impact of various human influences on animal well-being (e.g., methods of housing, handling, feeding, breeding, training, transport), and evaluating effects of emotional attachments between humans and animals on both human and animal well-being.
The center brings visibility to this area of scholarship and provides a focal point for organizing research and outreach activities that pertain to the well-being of domestic animals and human well-being in relation to animal well-being.
Dr. Panksepp’s internationally recognized work has focused on the nature of the basic emotional systems of the mammalian brain, with the most recent work devoted to analyzing the brain mechanisms that mediate separation distress and social bonding. His discovery of the nature of social joy by studying the psychobiological controls of juvenile playfulness and the accompanying laughter-type sounds has redefined many of the current models of animal emotion understanding. Currently, his work is aimed at deepening and broadening our understanding of these systems biologically as well as exploring the consequences of this knowledge for understanding animal and human mental health issues.
The legacy of Dr. Leo Bustad can be found within the walls of Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, permeating throughout all of the academic programs offered today. An outstanding educator, scientist and humanitarian, Bustad was instrumental in the creation of human-animal interaction programs at the national and international levels. He was also instrumental in the creation of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (1990). Leo Bustad taught a Reverence for Life course for more than 25 years. Dr. Bustad was also a founding member of the Delta Society. Bustad's work significantly contributed to the understanding of the changing role of companion animals in Western societies and its impact on veterinary education, veterinary medicine and society in general. The American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Delta Society recognizes Bustad’s legacy by annually presenting the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian Award to a veterinarian who has made special achievement in the area of human-animal interactions.