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NMSU to host symposium on human-animal interaction

Service animals and the bond between men and dogs will be the main topics discussed at the Human-Animal Interaction symposium Friday at New Mexico State University.

The symposium will be from 12:20 to 2:20 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in O’Donnell Hall Room 111. It is open to the public and two Continuing Education Unit credits are available to attendees. A reception with light refreshments will follow.

NMSU professors Gaylene Fasenko of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Department of Animal and Range Sciences, and Chris Blazina of the College of Education and director of the Mental Health and Wellness Clinic at NMSU, will speak at the symposium. Trudy Luken, director of NMSU’s Student Accessibility Services office, will be the symposium’s master of ceremonies.

“The study of Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) is a growing international multidisciplinary field of inquiry,” Blazina said. “With the various programs and degrees at NMSU emphasizing wellness, there is a new unique opportunity to incorporate elements of HAI into ongoing research and practice, perhaps even moving in the direction of offering a graduate minor in HAI or specialty degree designated for those that already have other types of training.”

Blazina’s topic, “When Man Meets Dog: Attachment, Loss, and the Continued Bond,” will focus on recent research findings regarding dogs’ impact on men’s lives. Blazina will also discuss men and dogs and their attachment bonds, and how men experience the loss of an animal companion.

“Recent research findings suggest how animal companions have a positive impact on men’s lives across the life span. This includes how canine companions impact males in the formative years, and at pivotal points of transition and stress like middle age, divorce and aging,” Blazina said. “The bond between man and dog is unique because it allows males of all ages to bypass many of the restrictive rules about being a man in Western culture.”

Fasenko will discuss, “Service Animals and the Americans With Disabilities Act: What Mental Health Care Professionals Need to Know.”

Service animals are being trained as medical alert dogs and to perform tasks for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Fasenko will discuss the different jobs of dogs involved as modern day service animals. She will also describe the training for these dogs and outline New Mexico laws that influence service animals.

“The roles of service dogs in society have changed drastically. In the past, service dogs were only used to guide the blind. Now they have diverse roles such as medical alert dogs for diabetes patients and psychiatric service dogs to assist people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Fasenko said. “While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of disabled persons and their service dogs to public access, the ADA has minimal laws and guidelines regarding the training of service animals. This talk will clearly outline current service dog laws in the U.S. and will serve to open discussion regarding the new roles and ethical training of all types of service dogs.”

For more information on the symposium, call NMSU’s Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at 575-646-2121.