Shelby McDonald, Ph.D.

Shelby E. McDonald, Ph.D., is a tenure-track assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and a core faculty member at the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development in the VCU Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on improving the socioemotional and behavioral functioning of young people who have experienced adversity and trauma by examining the role of human-animal interaction in risk and resilience in childhood and adolescence. Dr. McDonald’s recent projects have examined the impact of relationships with companion animals on the psychosocial well-being of maltreated children, the impact of animal maltreatment exposure on child and adult survivors of intimate partner violence, and the role of companion animals in LGBTQIA2S+ youth wellbeing. She is the author of numerous articles that have been published in academic journals, such as Child Abuse & Neglect and Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Dr. McDonald recently received an R21 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study relations between adverse childhood experiences, animal cruelty exposure, and child well-being. Her research findings have been translated into recommendations for domestic violence services, mental health professionals who work with interspecies families, and animal welfare organizations.

Dr. McDonald directs the Children, Families, and Animals Research (CFAR) Group at VCU. She also holds a research affiliate position with the VCU School of Medicine Center for Human-Animal Interaction.