A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits. I can't always explain it myself, but for years now I've seen how instances of having a pet is like an effective drug. It really does help people.

Dr. Edward Creagan
Oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN


In the mid 1970's the general attitude towards pets across the globe was that they were luxury or throwaway items. They were, after all, "just animals."


During this time there were three visionaries – Dr. Leo K. Bustad, a veterinarian, two brothers, Dr. Michael J. McCulloch, a psychiatrist and Dr. William ‘Bill’ McCulloch, and doctors R.K. Anderson, Stanley L. Diesch, Joe Quigley, and Alton Hopkins all veterinarians. These professionals came to know one another as they shared their observations that pets were having a positive impact on their human clients’ health and happiness. In 1977 the Delta Foundation was formed in Portland, OR with Michael J. McCulloch, MD as the President.   In 1981 the organization’s name was changed to Delta Society to symbolize an expanding group of interested researchers and medical practitioners in both human and animal fields, and Leo K. Bustad, DVM, PhD became President. 


As research findings began accumulating which reflected that having an animal in one’s life helped reduce blood pressure, lower stress and anxiety levels, and stimulate the release of endorphins which make people feel good, the members of Delta Society knew it was time to put their now proven theories into every day application. 


In 1981, Bill McCulloch, DVM helped initiate the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Human-Animal Bond Task Force to review the profession's role in recognizing and promoting the human-animal bond. This AVMA Committee continues to this day.


As Delta Society continued to strengthen its forces, under the guidance of Linda Hines (Delta Society President & CEO, 1983 - 2003)  in the late 1980s and 1990s new programs built on the organization’s research foundation were developed to provide direct services at the local community level. One of these was the establishment of the National Service Dog Center®. This program focuses on advocating for the acceptability of service dogs in public places and provides tools to help those with disabilities find a service dog trainer and understand their rights. Additionally, Delta Society developed the Pet Partners® program – the first comprehensive, standardized training in animal-assisted activities and therapy for volunteers and health-care professionals.


In 2012, Delta Society changed its name to Pet Partners in order to convey more clearly its mission.  For 35 years as Delta Society and now as Pet Partners, the organization remains focused on improving human health through positive interactions with therapy, service and companion animals. Our history is rich with ground-breaking work and we invite you to become part of our future.

Delta Foundation formed in 1977

History and Founders: Delta Society... The Early Years

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