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Morris Animal Foundation: A story of discovery and chance

By Heidi Jeter

As we celebrate our 65th anniversary this year, we’re taking a look back at our rich history.

Our story begins with a young man named Mark L. Morris, who in the fall of 1925 traveled 2,000 miles from his home in Colorado to Ithaca, New York, where he enrolled at Cornell University. A year later, doctorate of veterinary medicine in hand, Dr. Morris set out on a path that would change the course of veterinary medicine forever.

He opened one of the first companion animal hospitals in the country in 1928. In his research lab there, Dr. Morris applied advances in human medicine, such as blood and urine analysis, to improve the health of dogs and cats. He quickly became a pioneer in veterinary diagnostic work and animal nutrition.

One of his early discoveries was that dogs fed diets of low-quality protein often suffered from kidney failure. It was the time of the Great Depression, and a lack of table scraps had led dog owners to give their pets inexpensive commercial foods that contained low-grade meat by-products. Canine kidneys couldn’t process the resulting waste.

Dr. Morris’ solution was to develop Raritan Ration B, a specially formulated mix that owners could prepare at home. The diet of high-quality protein dramatically improved the health of dogs with kidney disease.

The story might have ended there but for a chance encounter in 1939, when Dr. Morris was invited to a luncheon at the Seeing Eye, a pioneering organization that provided guide dogs to the blind. There he met Morris Frank, the Seeing Eye’s first ambassador and the man Dr. Morris credits with prompting the series of events that would lead to the founding of Morris Animal Foundation.

Frank’s guide dog, Buddy II, had failing kidneys that dramatically improved on Dr. Morris’s diet. With Frank’s help in obtaining a canning machine and tin cans, Dr. Morris and his wife, Louise, began canning Raritan Ration B in their kitchen.   

The formula became so popular that in 1948 the Morrises partnered with Hill Packing Co. to make and distribute the renamed k/d and the many more Prescription Diets that Dr. Morris would later develop.

The 20-year agreement between Dr. Morris and Burton Hill, president and founder of Hill Packing Co., stipulated that royalties of one-half cent per tin would go toward establishing and funding the Buddy Foundation, a nonprofit organization established solely to research the health needs of animals. That organization was later renamed Morris Animal Foundation.

The Foundation’s first grants supported nutrition research. As the Foundation grew, so did its scope. Today, Morris Animal Foundation invests in health research that benefits dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. It is also committed to training new veterinary scientists.

The Foundation that was once just a vision is now a global leader in supporting science that advances veterinary medicine.

Please join us in celebrating 65 years of improving animal health at our Gala of Hope—An Evening with Betty White. Learn more and purchase tickets.

MORRIS ANIMAL FOUNDATION MILESTONES

  • 1948: Mark Morris Sr. founds the Buddy Foundation, which becomes Morris Animal Foundation in 1962.
  • 1950: The first studies for cats and dogs are funded.
  • 1956: The Scientific Advisory Board is established. It becomes the organization’s guiding force for funding the highest-quality science.
  • 1959: The Foundation begins funding equine studies. Funds top $100,000 mark for the first time.
  • 1965: The Foundation funds its first study at an international university: Guelph University.
  • 1967: The first wildlife study is funded.
  • 1971: Betty White joins the Board of Trustees.
  • 1986: The Foundation establishes the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda, the first program in the world to care for an endangered species in the field.
  • 1993: Dr. Mark Morris Sr. dies at the age of 92.
  • 2005: The Foundation launches training programs to address a critical shortage of veterinary scientists.
  • 2005: The Foundation launches an equine genetics consortium that leads to major breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of inherited diseases.
  • 2007: Morris Animal Foundation launches the Canine Cancer Campaign, which over five years directs more than $5 million for research to prevent and treat the disease.
  • 2007: Dr. Mark Morris Jr. dies, having grown the Foundation into an organization known for funding the very best veterinary science.
  • 2008: The Foundation launches the Happy Healthy Cat Campaign to increase funding for feline health.
  • 2013: 65th anniversary celebration!

Categories: Animal health, Veterinary news
August 29, 2013