Shelby Elaine McDonald, Ph.D.

Headshot of Shelby McDonald

Director of Research, Department of Research & Strategy, ASPCA, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Home Department

ASPCA Department of Strategy and Research
Affiliate Faculty, VCU Department of Psychology
Affiliate Faculty, VCU School of Social Work
Research Assistant Professor (Courtesy Appointment), Global Forensic and Justice Center, College of Arts, Sciences & Education, Florida International University (FIU)


Research Projects


Lab Members


I am Director of Research in the Department of Strategy and Research at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA®). I am also an affiliate faculty member with the VCU Department of Psychology and School of Social Work, where I was previously employed as a tenured associate professor. My research centers on the role of human-animal interaction in human health and wellbeing. I also conduct research on access to veterinary care and supportive services in underserved populations and communities. In addition to my work with the ASPCA’s Community Engagement, Veterinary Forensics, and National Field Response teams, my active research projects include: 1) the impact of human-animal interaction on children exposed to adverse family environments, 2) the impact of animal maltreatment exposure on child and adult survivors of intimate partner violence, and 3) the role of pets in wellbeing among LGBTQIA+ youth during the transition to adulthood. My research has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative. Findings from my studies have been translated into recommendations for domestic violence policies and services, mental health professionals, veterinary professionals, and animal welfare organizations. I am passionate about mentoring students in research and welcome undergraduate and graduate student participation in my work.

Learn more about Dr. McDonald and the CFAR group:  

Google Scholar | ResearchGate