For Morris, Funding Animal Health Ranges from Shelter Cats to Siberian Tigers

Morris Animal Foundation is one of the largest animal health funders around, and while its primary focus is dogs and cats, quite of lot of its giving extends to global wildlife.  

When Dr. Mark Morris founded the Morris Animal Foundation way back in 1948, he was calling for a new era of veterinary science, working on pet nutrition and advocating for more scientific research into the health of animals. His work was mostly on domestic cats and dogs, developing health food products for household animals and using the royalties to establish the foundation.

The Denver-based charity still does back a lot of research on dogs and cats, with some of its most celebrated funding going to the study of cancer among pets. It recently received $750,000 from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Foundation for its cancer studies, and is currently supporting a large-scale research initiative on high rates of cancer in Golden Retrievers. 

Related: A Golden Opportunity for Retrievers - The Morris Animal Foundation Launches Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

But the foundation, today a large sponsor of animal health research having given more than $100 million to thousands of studies, has notably supported work that reaches much further than family dogs and cats. In fact, the foundation has been funding wildlife research for more than 40 years.

The funder’s signature program is the Healthy Animals Initiative, and of the 2,300 or so studies the program has supported, 578 have researched wildlife and 510 studied horses and camels. While the rest funded research on cats and dogs, that’s a bigger proportion going to wildlife than I would have expected. 

One of the Healthy Animals Initiative’s research priorities has been alleviating a painful muscle disorder prevalent among horses, and funding a search for a genetic mutation behind it. Another notable example is research on tuberculosis among wild African great apes—the foundation supported the development of a fecal screening test on chimpanzees in Tanzania to help researchers understand the impact of the disease. Funding has also gone to study the spread of canine distemper disease among Siberian tigers. And some of its research on canines reaches beyond American households as well. For example, researchers have studied rabies among dogs in South Africa with Morris funding.

More broadly, the Morris Animal Foundation has backed a range of wildlife work since 1967, giving about $23 million total. In just the past year, that’s involved work on environmental hazards such as poisoning of California condors due to eating lead-contaminated carrion. But it’s really wide-ranging in its support, anything from the white-nose syndrome crisis that’s killing bats, to bacterial infection in Chilean foxes. 

The range of grantmaking is a reminder that, for both donors and advocates dedicated to helping animals, there’s often less of a divide between domestic pets and wild ecosystems than you might expect. There’s also the fact that study of animal health is an important scientific pursuit all on its own, even leading to breakthroughs in human health. 

You can check out the full spread of past studies at the foundation’s website, by species or area of study, and also apply for funding. 

Related: Morris Animal Foundation: Grants for Animals and Wildlife