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About Dr. McDonald

DR. Shelby E McDonald

Shelby E. McDonald, PhD, is an interdisciplinary social science researcher who studies the role of human-animal interaction and human-animal bonds in health and welfare among underrepresented and underserved communities. She currently serves as Director of Community Research and Evaluation for the Denver Zoological Foundation, an organization that works to improve our planet for wild animals, wild places and future generations. Dr. McDonald's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other competitive funding mechanisms. She is a Fellow of the Oxford University Centre for Animal Ethics.  


Currently, Dr. McDonald is an affiliate faculty member at the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, a CDC-funded violence prevention center at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She is also an affiliate faculty member with the VCU Department of Psychology and School of Social Work, where she was previously employed as a tenured associate professor. Her past employment also includes the role of Director of Research at the ASPCA.


Dr. McDonald received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Tech in 2006, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver in 2011, and a doctoral degree in social work from the University of Denver in 2015. 

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