Bringing experience, passion, and dedication to our mission
Founder & Executive Director:
Hayl and her dog Gladys
Hayl with Wolves at Wolf Park
Haylee ("Hayl") officially founded IHABS in 2018 and launched the first series of programming as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The goal was to build upon her experiences working within the human services industry while combining her passion for the human-animal bond and her background as a certified professional animal trainer and behavior consultant. Grown from many wonderful relationships built from her ownership of The Hound Society, LLC (animal training & behavior consulting), and years of experience as a therapy canine team, the Iowa Human-Animal Bond Society was formed with a mission focused on the powerful effects of the human-animal bond. As IHABS's Executive Director, and partnering with well-trained, prepared, and exceptionally qualified board members, trainers, and therapy animal teams, Hayl endeavors to change the face of the human-animal industry (starting in Iowa) through the professionalization of animal assisted interventions and the dissemination of the science of human-animal interactions.
Hayl is a graduate student earning a master's degree in clinical social work and gerontology. She is pursuing her PhD with research focused on the impacts human-animal interactions have on dementia-related behaviors as well as animal assisted crisis interventions. Hayl holds a BS degree in Psychology with focuses in Applied Behavior Analysis and Animal Behavior and an AAS degree in Animal Science. In addition to her roles within IHABS, Hayl is an Animal Behavior and Training Consultant for Happy Paws magazine (Fear Free Pets) and provides academic tutoring and instruction within the areas of mental health, psychology, sociology, gerontology, and APA research & writing at Mercy College of Health Sciences. She is a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) & served in the role of Director on the CCPDT's board of directors, is a Fear Free Certified Professional (Animal Trainer) and, member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). As a team, Hayl and her registered therapy dog Gladys (Irish Wolfhound) have amassed hundreds of volunteer hours specifically working with individuals impacted by Alzheimer's disease and dementia and earned Advanced Therapy Dog titles in 2017 & 2018. Currently, Hayl and her dogs provide animal assisted interventions to hospice services, residential care communities & skilled nursing, OT and PT services, reading assistance and sensory spaces programs, memory support communities, and grief support groups. She is also currently working towards certification as an animal assisted crisis intervention and response team with her dog, Ferdinand (Australian Shepherd).
- Associate Member of Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII)
- Certified in Mental Health First Aid
-Certificate in Psychological First Aid
- Registered Behavior Technician (ABA) through the BACB
-Diploma in Veterinary Assistance
- Licensed Be a Tree Program Presenter (Doggone Safe)
- Certificate from Karen Pryor Academy in Shelter Training and Enrichment
- Professional Member of the Pet Professional Guild
-Previous Professional & Supporting Member of both the APDT & IAABC
-Canine Good Citizen evaluator
- C.L.A.S.S certified instructor
- Certified Nursing Assistant
Board of Directors
IHABS is governed by a Board of Directors (BOD) that consists of no fewer than three and no more than seven directors (Supporting Members). Positions include President, Treasurer, Secretary and Supporting Member. All board of directors have voting privileges. A supplemental advisory non-voting members group of no more than 3 individuals may be added as an advisory council as determined each annual meeting by the BOD. As we continue to grow, the positions and roles of each BOD may change in order to better suit the needs of the nonprofit. Our members bring years of experience in a variety of fields and all are valued professionals, helping us to reach our goals and fulfill our mission.
Our Board Members
Brenna Dixon holds a BA degree in English and an MFA in Creative Writing and the Environment and is certified in Mental Health First Aid. She is a writer and teacher in the English Department at Iowa State University where she teaches composition classes, business writing, and fiction writing. She has also taught various writing and literature classes through DMACC, Grand View University, the Des Moines Social Club, NAMI, and Story County Conservation. Brenna served as Artist in Residence at Everglades National Park and has volunteered with the Iowa Wildlife Center in Ames, IA, as well as the Wildlife Care Center at Iowa State University. She is proud dog mom to Sheriff, the sweetest fox red lab you'll ever meet. Brenna and Sheriff have taken several training classes with Hayl and hope to work towards becoming a registered therapy dog team. Brenna is excited to take part in the Be a Tree program and she looks forward to furthering IHABS's educational mission.
Marni holds a BA in Economics from the University of Iowa and works for Wells Fargo. She originally become involved with The Hound Society, LLC (before converting to IHABS) when she participated in therapy dog training classes. In December of 2017, she became one of IHABS's first registered therapy dog teams with her dog Hope and began assisting in providing Supervised Visits. She is certified in Mental Health First Aid and working towards several other certifications including Psychological First Aid. Hope and Marni now serve as one of IHABS's Supervising Teams and, they volunteer weekly at Edgewater (a WesleyLife Community) as well within the IHABS Therapy Animal Program. Since fall of 2018, she has been an assistant trainer at IHABS as she works towards professional dog trainer certification. Marni and Hope are also pursuing certification with IHABS as a crisis intervention and response canine team. In 2019 Marni had the opportunity to interact with wolves and foxes at Wolf Park.
Liz attended the University of Northern Iowa for her undergrad and is currently working toward a masters degree in School Counseling and Preventative Mental Health through Creighton University. She has certification in Mental Health First Aid and is certified as a Nonprofit Professional through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Liz became involved with IHABS in 2018 when she began taking therapy dog classes with her dog Blitzen, eventually becoming a registered therapy dog team in the IHABS Therapy Animal Program and a Supervising Team. Currently, Liz works at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids as a School Counselor where she will be incorporating animal assisted education with Blitzen. As a board member and Supervising Team, Liz will help IHABS to expand in eastern Iowa. IHABS gives her a space to combine her love of animals with her passion for advocating for adolescent mental health.
Melissa holds a BA degree in Social Work from the University of St. Thomas and has an Animals & Human Health Certificate; Animal-Assisted Therapy, Activities, and Learning from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work. She is also certified in Mental Health First Aid. Melissa previously worked as an Adult Mental Health Case Manager for McLeod County in MN and a Program Coordinator for the nonprofit ElderCircle. She is currently volunteering with her Golden Retriever, Buddy, as a registered therapy dog team and one of IHABS's Supervising Teams. Together, Melissa and Buddy provide animal assisted interventions through the IHABS Therapy Animal Program for many of our clients and partners. She also enjoys assisting in her daughter’s 2nd grade classroom helping students with reading and, as a member of Doggone Safe, she serves IHABS as a Be a Tree Presenter. She is very excited to serve on the IHABS board, help the nonprofit to grow as an organization, and succeed in its mission.
Ann is a GNSS Senior Systems Engineer for John Deere's precision agriculture lines in Urbandale, Iowa and previously held positions in Product Verification and Validation also at John Deere. Ann holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University and is certified in Mental Health First Aid. Originally from West Des Moines, Ann resides in Johnston, IA with her dog Tesla, an Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and cat, Otto. She is active in the Des Moines and Johnston communities and participated in classes and seminars, as well as served as a volunteer, at The Hound Society, LLC, before its conversion to IHABS. She currently assists IHABS with therapy animal evaluations and program planning within the IHABS Therapy Animal Program. Ann is thrilled to be a part of IHABS and endeavors to grow and learn through its mission.