Biography: Leo K. Bustad

Leo K. Bustad, dean of the Washington State University (WSU) College of Veterinary Medicine for a decade, co-founder and first Chair of the Delta Society. An internationally recognized pioneer in the field of human-animal interactions, Bustad was an outstanding educator, scientist and humanitarian.

"In all of these roles, he was a humanitarian who put his principles of caring to work in everything he did," said Linda M. Hines, former President/CEO of the Delta Society. "We are determined that Dr. Bustad's life's work will continue and thus benefit even more people and animals."

He was a senior member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, recipient of three degrees at Washington State University, an international speaker, author, and recipient of numerous awards. Many awards given by national organizations also carry his name.

Practicing veterinarians, for example, are eligible to compete for the Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award, sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. This award, judged by the Delta Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association, recognizes the outstanding work of veterinarians in promoting the human-animal bond in practice through a special sensitivity to both clients and patients; in their communities through assuming a leadership role in programs that bring people and animals together; or in education or research on human-animal interactions.

A Stanwood, WA native, Leo K. Bustad was born January 10, 1920. He earned a bachelor's degree in Agriculture (1941), a master's degree in animal nutrition (1948), and a DVM (1949), all from WSU.

He received a PhD in physiology in 1960 from the University of Washington School of Medicine, where earlier he completed a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation.  As dean from 1973-83, Bustad is credited with rebuilding the veterinary program from one on provisional accreditation status to one of the most respected in the country. In 1985, the $11.3 million Veterinary Science Building was dedicated in his honor.

Also in 1985, Bustad received the WSU Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award - the 20th alumnus to be recognized with the university's highest honor.  Bustad spent a majority of his adult life devoted to work on the human-animal bond and became known as a pioneer in human-animal bond theory and application.

Under the leadership of Michael McCulloch, MD, William McCulloch, DVM, and others, the Delta Foundation was established in 1977 in Portland, Oregon. In 1979, Bustad and Linda Hines founded the People-Pet Partnership at WSU, the first university-based community service program on the human-animal bond. They joined forces with the McCullochs, and in 1981 the Delta Foundation became the Delta Society, headquartered at WSU.

Bustad was named first Chair of this now international nonprofit association, which at its onset focused much energy on work to understand the quality of the relationship between pet owners, pets, and care givers (hence the "delta" name based on this triangle).

In addition to serving as Chair of Delta Society from 1980 to 1990, Bustad authored two books: Animals, Aging and the Aged, 1980; and Compassion: Our Last Great Hope, 1990. He co-authored Learning and Living Together: Building the Human-Animal Bond. an elementary school curriculum.  He also was author or co-author of more than 200 articles and reports, many of which focused on the human-animal bond. His work in the field of human-animal interactions resulted in the creation of many programs nationally and internationally that bring people and pets together.

For example, at the Washington Correction Center for Women, a maximum security prison in Washington State, Kathy Quinn, assisted by Leo Bustad and Linda Hines, founded an instruction program for the prisoners in canine husbandry and behavior, obedience training, and customized training designed to meet the special needs of people with disabilities, with a focus on training unwanted dogs.

Dr. Earl Strimple, Washington, D.C., veterinarian, said the program gives the women a new perspective to live by, namely, to think of others who need help. By training dogs to help them, these women show their honesty, devotion, commitment, and love.

After he retired, Bustad was awarded the titles of dean emeritus and professor emeritus of veterinary physiology, a position that enabled him to maintain a half-time appointment. He maintained an office on campus, and often commuted between his home near the edge of campus and his office by bicycle. He said he averaged 90-hour work weeks.

He served as consultant to the Surgeon General of the US Air Force, was a member of the National Academies of Practice, and director of the People-Pet Partnership Program at WSU.

In 1980, he was named "Veterinarian of the Year" by the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association. He also was the recipient of the WVMA's Distinguished Service Award and the Delta Society's Distinguished Service Award.

On the same day he received his first degree from WSU, Bustad was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He married Signe Byrd, a classmate, June 13, 1942 at the Fort Benning, GA chapel. Bustad saw combat duty in Italy and Germany during World War II, and spent 15 months as a prisoner of war in a German prison camp in the Polish corridor.

He didn't see his wife for 32 months and returned to the states June 13, 1945, in time to call her on their third wedding anniversary.

Leo Bustad died Saturday, Sept. 19,1998, in Pullman Memorial Hospital, Pullman, Washington . He was 78.

“In large part due to Dr. Bustad’s visionary leadership, our society and the world is now understanding and embracing the healing power of animals.”

Larry Norvell
President & CEO, Delta Society


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