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The COVID-19 pandemic did not deter the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) from delivering the message to Congress members that pets are good for our health and well-being. Instead of holding its in-person annual Pet Night on Capitol Hill, HABRI transformed the event into a week of virtual programming.

“HABRI is proud to host Pet Night on Capitol Hill, but since we couldn’t be together in person, we decided to build a virtual Pet Week on Capitol Hill,” said Steven Feldman, executive director of HABRI. “The entire pet care community came together to share the power of pets with Congress, and we ended up with even greater participation, which shows how the human-animal bond has grown even stronger during the pandemic.”

Pet Week highlighted timely issues including the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on pet adoption in the U.S. and the importance of passing lifesaving pet-related legislation aimed at improving the lives of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and survivors of domestic violence.

Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5) discussed the importance of One Health Act legislation aimed at helping protect people and pets from zoonotic diseases, and the key role of veterinary medicine in preventing future pandemics.

Thousands of participants experienced the human-animal bond from afar, with virtual visits from Pet Partners therapy animals and adoptable pets from the Humane Rescue Alliance, officials said in a statement. Pet Week also featured a special guest appearance from baseball Hall-of-Famer Tony La Russa, who spoke on the lifesaving impact of service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress.

For Pet Week’s closing celebration, the Animal Health Institute crowned the winners of the Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill contest, recognizing the most adorable congressional companions from both sides of the aisle. The winners:

  • Dog: Sergeant Pepper, owned by Syd Terry, office of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)
  • Cat: Jackson, owned by Liz Leibowitz, office of Senator Cardin (MD)
  • Exotic: Arty, owned by Matthew Brownlee, offfice of Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2)

“As one of the three veterinarians in the United States Congress, it’s always a lot of fun to collaborate with the Animal Health Institute for the Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill contest,” said Representative Schrader. “Pets are always important to us, and never more so than during the global pandemic when so many of us seek companionship and outlets that help us have fun and release tension. Pets remind us of what’s good and right in the world.”

All recorded discussions from Pet Week on Capitol Hill are available to view on-demand here.