About Us

The Tufts Initiative for Human-Animal Interaction (TIHAI) is a program within the Center for Animals and Public Policy at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. TIHAI was launched in 2015 as a cross-university initiative with the mission of promoting the health, strengths, and well-being of humans and animals through transdisciplinary partnerships that foster innovative research, education, and service programs in human-animal interaction. TIHAI is led by an advisory board with faculty representatives from multiple Tufts campuses and serves both undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines.

Co-Director: Megan K. Mueller, Ph.D.

Dr. Megan Kiely Mueller is an Associate Professor of human-animal interaction at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also a senior fellow at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and teaches in the M.S. in Animals and Public Policy program at the Center for Animals and Public Policy. Dr. Mueller’s Pets and Well-Being Lab conducts a range of research projects on pet ownership and positive youth development, animal-assisted interventions for adolescents with social anxiety, and animal-based STEM education. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and private foundations, and her work has been published in numerous scientific journals and media outlets. Dr. Mueller currently serves on the board of directors for the International Society for Anthrozoology and the Human-Animal Bond Advisory Committee for Pet Partners

Co-Director: Deborah Linder, DVM, MS

Dr. Deborah Linder is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, a Research Assistant Professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and Co-Director of the Tufts Initiative for Human-Animal Interaction. She has had articles appear in Eating Well, the Boston Globe, AARP, SHAPE, and XM Sirius Radio Doctor Channel. She has spoken at national and international conferences and a Capitol Hill briefing, and is an expert in pet obesity, nutrition communication, and in human-animal interaction. Her recent research includes the impact of animal-assisted interventions on childhood obesity and child literacy.

Board of Advisors

» Gary Bedell, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

    Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy

» Richard M. Lerner, PhD

    Professor and Bergstrom Chair of Applied Developmental Science, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development; Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development

» Chris Rogers, PhD

    Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

» Allen Rutberg, PhD

    Director, Center for Animals and Public Policy; Research Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

» Diane Ryan, PhD

    Associate Dean for Programs and Administration, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life

» Edward Saltzman, M.D.

    Academic Dean for Education, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Associate Professor, School of Medicine; Scientist, Energy Metabolism Laboratory in the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging



The Tufts Initiative for Human-Animal Interaction collaborates with many other centers and universities on research related to human-animal interaction, including:

The Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver 

The Youth, Media, and Well-Being Research Lab at Wellesley Centers for Women

TIHAI is also an educational/institutional member of Animal-Assisted Interventions International.