About Paws for People

Tufts Paws for People is a core service program of the Cummings School’s Center for Animals and Public Policy (CAPP) and the Tufts Initiative for Human-Animal Interaction.

Tufts Paws for People is supported, in part, by the CAPP-based Elizabeth A. Lawrence Endowed Fund. The fund honors Dr. Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence, a pioneering veterinarian, anthropologist, and CAPP co-founder who wrote with insight and eloquence about the relationship between people and animals, with special attention to horses.

History of Tufts Paws for People

Initially, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University had a small animal visitation program begun in 1998 by Dr. Gary Patronek of Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy and Ms. Harue Midtmoen, a local volunteer. She had about 10 volunteers and animals who visited local schools, nursing homes and other facilities.

In 2004, conversations began between several members of the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy and others at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine interested in enlarging the program and ensuring its continuity. Paws for People was formally launched in May of 2004, the result of many hours of work from a wide and diverse group of people at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Standardized training for all handlers and screenings of the animal-handler teams (health and aptitude) ensured a consistent high level of safety to both humans and animals.  A new logo and program identity was introduced soon after. The track record of high standards led to a more formal collaboration with Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009 and a name change to Tufts Paws for People, as well as incorporation into the Animals and Community Track at the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy.

In the years since, and with ongoing support from the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy, the program has grown to include teams of multiple species who visit a variety of programs including elder care facilities, hospice centers, at-risk youth, adult and adolescent mental health care, hospitals, public schools, libraries, work place wellness, and others. A continuing emphasis on the educational and research aspects of the human-animal bond has created a thriving, strong program with a high degree of interest from many throughout Massachusetts and the greater New England area.