Latham’s Recent History
Excerpted from Latham and the History of Humane Education: A Centennial Celebration by Phil Arkow
The 1950s: Harnessing the Power of Television
The success of Brother Buzz as a print medium and radio icon had to be adapted to changing technologies. By the 1950s, it was apparent that children could be captivated more readily through the new medium of TV. KPIX Channel 5, the then-Westinghouse affiliate station in San Francisco, was eager to run a 15-minute Latham-sponsored program in children’s prime-time viewing hours.
Later the show expanded to 30 minutes and eventually it was syndicated for broadcast in such major markets as Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles. It was also available for distribution in schools. By 1967, the show had a weekly viewing audience of an estimated two million. Even today, the Foundation receives letters from people who fondly remember growing up with the friendly puppets and humane message that “kindness is contagious.”
The 1960s: Getting “Withit”
With the dawn of the turbulent 1960s, Latham’s humane education approach was ready for another adaptation to changing times. Brother Buzz could not compete with Sesame Street, and the Foundation realized that humane education was not just for children any more. They saw that there was an even wider audience of adults who could learn the humane message and impart it to their children. And so, the Latham Foundation again evolved. It began to utilize the cinematic approach first employed with the 1927 anti-rodeo documentary. The result was an award-winning series of 46 half-hour films for both TV broadcast and videocassettes for classroom use. Thirteen of these films were also available in Spanish.
The 1970s and 1980s: A Therapeutic Approach to Humane Education
While Latham had never strayed from the underlying message of kindness to animals, new directions in the humane field suggested additional approaches. One of these was increasing interest in what was being called the Human-Animal Bond.
This approach was a vibrant, exploratory look from both academic and practical perspectives into the nature of human beings’ interactions with animals across cultures. One practical aspect was called Pet Therapy at the time (later modified to Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities), utilizing the power of the human-animal bond in such healing settings as long-term care facilities, hospitals, healthcare, prisons, and many other venues.
Phil Arkow was commissioned to write a guidebook, How to Start a Pet Therapy Program, in partnership with the Carnation Company. This led to the Foundation’s first venture into book publishing. Arkow edited the 1984 text, Dynamic Relationships in Practice: Animals in the Helping Professions, and its 1987 update, The Loving Bond: Companion Animals in the Helping Professions. These twin texts invited nationally renowned authorities to write chapters on such diverse topics as pet loss and grief, service animals, human psychology, animal behavior, therapeutic riding, farm-based education programs, animal therapy in prisons and nursing homes, and the veterinarian’s role in the human-animal bond.
In 1980, Latham explored a potential collaboration with a new human-animal bond group emerging out of Portland, Ore., and Pullman, Wash. Recognizing the profound effects that companion animals may have on our emotional equilibrium and health, the Delta Foundation was a unique combination of human and veterinary medicine, academic researchers, and practitioners exploring the therapeutic applications of the human-animal bond. It quickly became an international resource on the relationships between people, animals and the living environment.
The Foundation planned to bring Delta in as the Delta Group of the Latham Foundation. Latham helped underwrite the historic 1981 International Conference on the Human-Animal Bond in Philadelphia, a 1981 Symposium and Workshop on the Human/Companion Animal Bond in Honolulu, and the back-to-back 1983 human-animal bond conferences at the Universities of Minnesota and California-Irvine.
It soon became apparent that Delta’s interest in promoting academic research and standards for conducting animal therapy and activity programs needed its own direction. In 1981, the group split off from Latham and incorporated as the Delta Society (today it is known as Pet Partners).
The Latham Letter
As Latham’s humane education message became more broadly disseminated, it became necessary to create a new medium in which to report not only the Foundation’s activities but also new developments in a rapidly expanding field. The result was The Latham Letter, the Foundation’s quarterly magazine first published in the Fall of 1980 to publicize the many fresh and exciting developments in humane education and its spin-offs.
Today, more than three decades later, The Letter continues to be a powerful force in educating many “publics” with Edith Latham’s objectives of fostering the higher principles of humaneness upon which the unity and happiness of the world depend.
Issues of The Latham Letter are available online free of charge to all who wish to search its archives and utilize its resources.
Expanded Video Production
With its decades-long history of film and video production, the Foundation believed that the motivation behind, the creativity involved, and the results produced in videos are deserving of encouragement. In 1996, the Foundation initiated the Search for Excellence video contest, challenging groups to show off their best audio-visual productions. This contest ran for several years and recognized dozens of amateur and professional filmmakers whose work was disseminating the humane message.
Executive Film Producer Steve Nagy produced a series of specialty films aimed at building awareness of the human-animal bond and its therapeutic applications. Films like “Hi Ya, Beautiful,” describing a wildlife rehabilitation program within the walls of an Ohio maximum security correctional facility, and “Ability, Not Disability,” depicting one of the earliest therapeutic riding centers in Michigan, introduced animal-assisted therapy to professional and public audiences. Later films, such as “Your Humane Society,” “Dolphin Swim,” “Canine Good Citizen,” “Garden Therapy,” “Animal Control – Who Needs It?,” “Living with HIV and Pets,” “Kerry,” “Mona’s Ark,” and “Jenny: Diary of a Therapy Dog” won awards, addressed contemporary issues, and inspired countless persons with new-found respect for the animals whose lives are intertwined with ours.
“Reaching Out: The Spay/Neuter Challenge,” filmed on Crow and Northern Cheyenne tribal lands, was the first production to address animal welfare issues among Native Americans.
The 1990s: Linking Animal Abuse and Human Violence
As the 20th Century neared its end, Latham revitalized the early humane interest in the LINK between animal abuse and human violence—that animal cruelty often indicates and predicts interpersonal violence and co-occurs with child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse. The Foundation took a preeminent role in advancing this awareness.
One of the earliest conferences to address the linkages between interpersonal and animal violence was a historic seminar convened by Latham at Mills College in Oakland on Oct. 24, 1992. Betty White, a long-time advocate of animal welfare, joined nine nationally renowned experts presenting “A Cooperative Approach to the Prevention of Child and Animal Abuse” to 52 participants.
This Link-oriented work continues into the 21st Century. In 2002, Latham co-sponsored a unique conference on “Using Gardens and Animals to Teach Gentleness to Children from Violent Homes and Communities.”
In 2008, Latham collaborated with the American Humane Association, the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, and Maine’s Linkage Project on a National Town Meeting and Summit in Portland that formed the National LINK Coalition.
The first training manual was Working with Families in Shelters (1994). Lynn Loar and Joan Weakland provided a practical guide for counselors and childcare staff working with families who have been displaced. More than 1,000 shelters for the homeless received this guidebook free of charge.
Later, Lynn Loar collaborated with Pamela Raphael and Libby Colman to write 1999’s Teaching Compassion: A Guide for Humane Educators, Teachers and Parents. This colorful book described the meaning of animals to children as revealed through their artwork and poetry and suggested activities.
In 2004, Latham published Teaching Empathy: Animal-Assisted Therapy Programs for Children and Families Exposed to Violence, by Lynn Loar and Libby Colman. This handbook for therapists, teachers and humane educators used the LINK between animal abuse and human violence as a basis for bringing animal-assisted interventions and humane education to troubled children.
In February 1993, Latham officials met in Denver, Colo., and determined that the prevention of child and animal abuse would be a high priority. A task force, the Child and Animal Abuse Prevention Project (CAAP), was created. CAAP conducted a national needs assessment of 500 violence-prevention leaders and began compiling resource materials and offering training to professionals in the fields of preventing child abuse, animal cruelty, domestic violence, and, later, elder abuse.
Latham produced an award-winning video and accompanying 62-page workbook, written by Phil Arkow, entitled Breaking the Cycle of Violence in 1995. These were updated as Breaking the Cycles of Violence II in 2003. The Cycles materials trained professional audiences to recognize how their areas of interest intersected and how recognizing and reporting abuse in any one area can prevent abuses in the others.
The success of Cycles prompted Latham’s groundbreaking textbook, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. In 1999, Purdue University Press published this compilation of 47 essays, edited by Frank Ascione and Phil Arkow. It remains a standard reference tool in this rapidly emerging field.
The 21st Century
Under the guidance of film producer Tula Asselanis, video work continues to re-examine ongoing issues and address emerging ones. For example, “The Pit Bull Paradox” in 2008 promoted understanding and appreciation of an often-maligned breed. “Dog Defense: Avoiding On-the-job Dog Bites” is a guide for postal workers, meter readers, delivery personnel and others who make home visits. “The Best Dog Ever” helps families with recently adopted pets understand their new family member. “Caring Careers: Making a Living, Making a Difference” (2010) introduced children to animal-oriented professions that require less formal training than that needed to become a veterinarian.
The film series, HelpMeHelpYou, examines a variety of animal-assisted activity and therapy programs in which animals help children and, in turn, children help animals.
- “Faith and Hope on a Farm” highlights the Sonoma County, Calif. Humane Society’s famed Forget Me Not Farm.
- “Green Chimneys, Blue Skies,” about the esteemed residential farm and wildlife center in Brewster, N.Y., won a Bronze Medal at the 35th Annual Telly Awards*
- “BARC if You Need Help” describes Building Adolescent Responsibility and Compassion in the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center.
- “Horses Heal Too – Two Different Paths to Healing” describes two programs that help troubled youth learn respect, responsibility, empathy and compassion.
Horses Heal Too clip on Vimeo (2016)
Lastly, Asselanis produced “Hope Unleashed: A Journey of Healing” which updates and expands on Latham’s 1981 film about the nation’s first prison pet program. Sister Pauline Quinn and others started the prison program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. This healing journey also explores a similar program that Sister Pauline initiated at the Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Inmates, dog trainers, wardens, guards, volunteers, and veterans describe in moving detail how these programs have changed their lives for the better.
Latham has been honored to win four Telly Awards honoring the best film and TV productions and online and broadcast programs.
A century after the Latham Foundation introduced humane education to schools in the San Francisco Bay area, innovative ideas continue to flourish. Latham’s website, which was one of the earliest Internet sites in the humane field, and online services such as YouTube and Vimeo, provide worldwide access to core humane education information.
To honor the Foundation’s 100th Anniversary in 1918, Latham commissioned Phil Arkow to author:
Latham and the LINK: A Legacy of Cruelty Prevention and Personal Responsibility and
Latham and the History of Humane Education: A Centennial Celebration.
All are available on Amazon:
Latham celebrated its second century of promoting humane education by launching its grants program in 2019. We encourage applicants to review the hierarchy of humane education that our Latham Steps memorialize and show how their proposal supports these principles. For guidelines, application procedure, and deadline, click here.