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Photo: Lynette A. Hart

Lynette A. Hart- BS, MA, PhD
Population Health & Reproduction

3207 VM3B
Davis, CA 95616

+1 530 752 2181


Research Focus

There are three major interrelated areas of my research activity, each related to my various roles in teaching and mentoring of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. My primary research focus is on human-animal interactions. In recent years I have worked with a postdoctoral student from Japan, Mariko Yamamoto, in evaluating the expanding role of pets as assistance dogs for people with physical or mental disabilities. One emphasis is evaluation of the advantages of dogs of varying body sizes ranging from those of the size of Chihuahuas to the Golden and Labrador Retrievers, to the German Shepherd Dogs. I mentor undergraduate students in this work as well as the postdoc, and both are co-authors on recent papers. Each year I incorporate our new findings into my teaching of veterinary and undergraduate students.

A second focus of recent years has been in collaborating with others in exploring the adverse disease-related effects of spay/neuter in dog as a function of breed membership, gender and neuter age. The first paper with my PhD student Gretel Torres de la Riva, has had a large impact in the veterinary profession (this is listed as my main publication). A major theme concerns differences between breeds and genders. Together with coauthor Benjamin Hart, we have shown that the breeds essential as assistance dogs, military dogs and police dogs-Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds - all have a marked increased incidence of joint disorders from early spay/neuter that can impact the working life of the dog, and cause major psychological and financial stress for the handler. We have shown that simply avoiding a spay/neuter in the first year can eliminate most of the risks of a joint disorder. The large research team for this work includes several undergraduate students that I have mentored for their own side-piece of research for Animal Biology projects on topics we had not previously examined. These projects are informing our team's subsequent research on spay-neuter effects including degenerative myelopathy, urinary incontinence, and hypothyroidism.

A third major research focus is basic animal behavior. Research on seismic wave production and detection by elephants, and translocation effects on social behavior of elephants involved the dissertations of two recent and one former of my PhD students. Two other PhD students studied the behavior of ground squirrels towards predators and vocalizations in bison. A major publication on elephants with Benjamin Hart and with a graduate student participation, pointed out the unique cytoarchitecture of the elephant cerebral cortex and related this to the extensive long-term memory and elaborate social empathic behavior of the elephant.

Specialty Focus

Human-animal Interactions and Behavior


1958 BS Physical Science Education, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
1962 MA Education Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
1976 PhD Zoology/Animal Behavior, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Honors and Awards

2011-2012 Advisory Professor, Nicholas Cardinal Cheong Graduate School for Life, The Catholic University of Korea; February 2011-January 2012
2011 Visiting Professor, St. Georges School of Veterinary Medicine, Grenada; April-May and October-November
2011 Visiting Professor, Azabu University, Tokyo, Japan
2010-2012 Vienna Encyclopedia of Animal Welfare Advisory Board (
2010 Visiting Professor, University of Helsinki and University of Eastern Finland; September-October
2009 Visiting Professor, Azabu University, Tokyo, Japan
1995-2012 Honorary Member, Society for the Study of Human-Animal Relations, Japan

Active Research Grants

Co-Principal Investigator, Multi-breed Disease Risks of Early and Late Spay/Neuter versus Intact, Hart BL (Principal Investigator), Canine Health Foundation OAK

Co-Principal Investigator, Multi-breed Disease Risks of Early and Late Spay/Neuter versus Intact, Hart BL (Principal Investigator), UC Davis: Vet Med: Center for Companion Animal Health Matching Funds - Canine Health Foundation OAK

Most Recent 10 Publications

  • Link Icon 2014 Yamamoto M, Hart LA, Ohta M, Matsumoto K, Ohtani N Obstacles and anticipated problems associated with acquiring assistance dogs, as expressed by Japanese people with physical disabilities Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin,
  • Link Icon 2014 Wandesforde-Smith G, Denninger Snyder K, Hart LA Biodiversity conservation and protected areas in China: Science, law and the obdurate party-state J Int Wildl Law Policy,
  • Link Icon 2014 Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. PLoS One,
  • Link Icon 2013 Mantor M, Krause S, Hart LA Trapping and handling squirrels: Trap modification and handling restraint to minimize injuries and stress Wildl Soc B,
  • Link Icon 2013 Messam LL, Kass PH, Chomel BB, Hart LA Age-related changes in the propensity of dogs to bite Vet J,
  • Link Icon 2013 Choe BI, Lee GH, Braunschweiger PG, Hart LA Progress in promoting the Three Rs in Korea: efficiency and consistency. Altern Lab Anim,
  • Link Icon 2013 Yamamoto M, Hart LA, Matsumoto K, Ohta M, Ohtani M Japanese people with vision disabilities rate their experiences with information resources pertaining to guide dogs. Int J Orientat Mobility,
  • Link Icon 2013 Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, Oberbauer AM, Messam LL, Willits N, Hart LA Neutering dogs: effects on joint disorders and cancers in golden retrievers. PloS One,
  • Link Icon 2012 Wyman MT, Mooring MS, McCowan B, Penedo MCT, Reby D, Hart LA Acoustic cues to size and quality in the vocalizations of male North American bison, Bison bison Anim Behav,
  • Link Icon 2012 Messam LL, Kass PH, Chomel BB, Hart LA Risk factors for dog bites occurring during and outside of play: Are they different? Prev Vet Med,

Most Recent 5 Book Chapters

2013 Hart BL, Hart LA: Chapter 14: Feline behavioural problems and solutions, Turner DC, Bateson P, (ed), The Domestic Cat, The Biology of its Behaviour, Third Edition. 201-12.

2013 Hart BL, Hart LA, Lyons LA: Chapter 11: Breed and gender behavior differences: Relation to the ancient history and origin of the domestic cat, Turner DC, Bateson P, (ed), The Domestic Cat, The Biology of its Behaviour, Third Edition. 155-66.

2013 Hart BL, Hart LA: Chapter 3: Normal and problematic reproductive behavior in the domestic cat, Turner DC, Bateson P, (ed), The Domestic Cat, The Biology of its Behaviour, Third Edition. 27-36.

2012 Hart BL, Hart LA: Chapter 12: Unique attributes of the elephant mind offer perspectives on the human mind, Smith J, Mitchell RW, (ed), Experiencing Animal Minds: An Anthology of Animal-Human Encounters (Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science and Law), NY. 186-200.

2010 Hart LA: Human animal bond, Kahn CM, (ed), The Merck Veterinary Manual, 10th edition, Whitehouse Station, NJ. 1457-61.