Doug Plant ’81 is the top dog at Michigan Humane

By Laura Hipshire

For Doug Plant '81, cats and dogs have always been a part of his life. So when he joined Michigan Humane as senior vice president and chief operating officer, his goal was to connect Michigan Humane – one of the largest animal welfare organizations with communities – to discuss how they could help neighborhoods become safer, healthier, and economically stable. 

Plant leveraged his Master of Social Work and community relationships to build partnerships focused on how animals could assist organizations with their mission. And although he had no formal animal welfare experience, he was surrounded by animal experts who helped him strengthen his team and mission.

School of Social Work partners with Michigan Humane

To help social workers connect with individuals and families and add to the stability of the community, the School is forging a partnership with Michigan Humane.

This innovative approach to preventive care for families allows social workers to move from a ‘reactive’ outlook to one of prevention. Social workers work closely with families using the pet as an entre into the home and lives of those who may have additional needs. 

Using an interprofessional care model, Wayne State Social Work students will work with Michigan Humane professionals including veterinarians and veterinarian technicians in community settings such as nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities to provide a holistic care approach. Students will receive specialized curriculum and training related to animal-assisted intervention, including a course devoted entirely to this burgeoning field currently under development.

Michigan Humane initiatives positively impact staff and community

Two new Michigan Humane programs spearheaded by Plant are making a difference. The first, a Keeping Families Together initiative, involves shifting from sheltering animals (intervention) to keeping animals in their homes (prevention). “Three years ago, we began providing care to families in need so they could keep their pets. Medical, behavioral, and basic needs are the primary reasons families struggle with keeping their pets. Our program provides these supports at little or no cost to families. In 2021, for the first time in history, we provided care for twice as many pets in the community than we did in the shelter.”

The second program, Navigator Express Training, helps staff interact more effectively with the public. Taught by a licensed MSW and SSW field instructor, the training focuses on topics such as empathy, motivational interviewing, grief and loss, and problem-solving. “The goal of this series is to provide my teams with tools to help families who are struggling no matter what the issues are.”

Fostering and volunteering are rewarding experiences

Rescuing and finding homes for animals is always a priority for Plant and Michigan Humane, and he’s “walking the walk” as the owner of two rescue dogs—Scout, a lab mix, and Marty, a “puggle,” or pug and beagle mix. “They keep me moving and cared for every day.”

And while adopting animals is a priority, fostering is just as important. “Fostering gives families a sense of purpose and value to an animal without the long-term commitment.”

“Doug has a passion for helping families and has infused the human element into everything we do here at Michigan Humane. His leadership in our organization and in this community is inspiring,” said Matthew Pepper, president and CEO at Michigan Humane.

Shelter volunteers are always needed at Michigan Humane. “Whether it’s caring for animals in one of our shelters, participating in community events, or encouraging others to microchip and sterilize their pet, there are many ways to support our mission.” 

Alumni Week of Service is Oct. 15-22. Are you ready to make an impact alongside others this year? Sign up for a project with the Humane Society and let us know when you’re volunteering! For more information about volunteer opportunities and other ways you can contribute, visit To register your project for Alumni Week of Service, visit

Learn more about Alumni Week of Service

Back to listing