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Updated July 20, 2023 – As Morris Animal Foundation celebrates its 75th anniversary – its diamond jubilee – few would imagine this global animal health powerhouse started as a fledgling idea, inspired by a visionary veterinarian. 

Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr. revolutionized veterinary medicine for dogs and cats, and later on for horses and wildlife. In 1928, he established the Raritan Hospital for Animals, one of the first small animal practices in the country. At that time, significant gaps existed in how to best diagnose and treat pet diseases. With an inquisitive mind, Dr. Morris set out to solve these issues himself. As his novel approaches started saving pet lives, word soon spread that the local veterinarian also was a scientist.

From Diets to Animal Foundation

Dr. Morris set up labs in his animal hospital and began developing curative diets for companion animals. He was experimenting with food formulas to treat chronic kidney disease when he happened to meet Morris Frank, one of the founding members of The Seeing Eye. Mr. Frank’s guide dog Buddy was in failing health with kidney disease and improved when fed Dr. Morris’ diet.

By 1948, Dr. Morris’ pet food business was booming, and he contracted with Hill Packing Company to manufacture, can and distribute his growing line of Prescription Diets. With great foresight, Dr. Morris committed royalties of ½ cent for every can sold over the next two decades to support animal health research through a new foundation – the Buddy Foundation. Expanding in scope, the Buddy Foundation was later renamed Morris Animal Foundation and the Morris family, including Dr. Mark L. Morris Jr., all worked to make the Foundation a success.

Lifesaving Research

Since its first two funded studies of $1,000 each in 1950, the Foundation has remained true to its mission and Dr. Morris’ vision to bridge science and resources to advance the health of dogs, cats, horses and wildlife.

The Foundation supported early studies toward the development of the first canine parvovirus vaccine and the first feline leukemia vaccine, as well as improved diagnostics and a vaccine for Potomac horse fever. A chance meeting between Dr. Dian Fossey and Ruth Morris Keesling, Dr. Morris’ daughter, helped launch the Foundation’s first major wildlife health initiative – to save the mountain gorillas. Together, these wins for animal health saved and improved the lives of dogs, cats, horses and gorillas.

Our Future is Bright

Today, the Foundation has invested nearly $160 million in more than 3,000 lifesaving animal health studies. As a nonprofit organization, the Foundation continues to support cutting-edge research to develop better diagnostics, treatments and preventives, solely to help animals thrive and survive. And we could not have done this important work for 75 years without the support of our generous donors and volunteers, all of whom continue to help shine a sparkling light on a healthier tomorrow for all animals.