Dr Peter Higgins

Associate Dean - Curriculum
Academic Lead - Placements
Chair, PiVE Conference
DVM Mentoring Programme Director
Lecturer and Unit of Study Coordinator.

B01 - J.D. Stewart Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9036 9479
Fax +61 2 9351 3056

Biographical details

Dr Higgins has had a lifelong passion for animals and improving the understanding and education of the community through public communication of ideas and facts. Professionally he has worked in many senior roles that achieved outcomes of improved benefits for animals. His driving tenet is to make a difference. After graduation from vet school Dr Higgins worked as a practitioner and later became involved in business and gained further qualifications in public affairs, marketing, and communications. He worked in senior management roles for large international companies and shaped their development through periods of change. Dr Higgins has extensive experience in business, government, universities, and professional associations. He originally became involved with Professional Practice in 1998 when Dr Henry Collins and he devised the embryonic nucleus of what is now a recognised discipline.

Dr Higgins worked on many landmark anthrozoological programs which uncovered exciting research findings in the human animal bond. Honey the Hospital Dog was the first dog placed in a hospital in Caulfield in Victoria. Many of the initial findings about effects on blood pressure, recovery and morbidly rates in humans, and psychometric analysis, stemmed from the original project done with Honey.

Dr Higgins was also one of the initiators of the Pets as Therapy Program which was the first structured program placing dogs in nursing homes in Australia. This was under the auspices of the Royal Guide Dogs Association. He served on the Board of Directors of the Guide Dog Association for 7 years and was a leader on the project control group for Pets As Therapy. He was also the chair of Outreach (with Mathilde Kibble) which was a joint venture of the AVA and Animal Welfare League. Rather than placing dogs in facilities, Outreach was a program where dogs and cats visited nursing homes and hospitals. The visit lasted a couple of hours an occurred once a week.

Dr Higgins did an enormous amount of research into the benefits of animals to humans both psychologically but also physically as well. One corollary of this was when he was headline news when he advocated pets being allowed in a working environment to help productivity (now many workplaces allow pets).

Dr Higgins also did some early research into pets in prisons here in Australia but was vetoed quite early by prison authorities.

Research interests

  • Teaching pedagogies and learning methodologies for tertiary students
  • Professional ethics
  • Writing for public communication
  • Media's role shaping the contemporary public sphere & public debate
  • Urban Animal Management
  • The role of listening role in the communication process
  • Human Animal Bond

Whilst not widely published in refereed journals Dr Higgins has written over 1000 media releases on animal related topics, written about 500 edited columns in publications for the public eg New Idea, and written over 1000 scripts for radio and television shows. Print, radio, and television journalists have interviewed him several thousand times. The outcome has always been to better educate our society about animals. All of this has required research, albeit not within the model that we currently use at university.

  • 2 published books
  • One new book in planning stage
  • Sectional Editor for Investigate magazine
  • Postgraduate Foundation Proceedings contributor
  • Author & facilitator of Postgraduate Foundation 5 year Strategic Plan (2002 - 2007)
  • 4 papers published in Management Today
  • 2 papers published in Public Relations Institute Journal
  • Articles in marketing and business Journals over 20 years
  • Columnist for New Idea for 5 years
  • Pet Editor for NOW Magazine
  • Rural Editor for Sydney Media Centre
  • Veterinary Editor for Cat Fancy Journal
  • Editor of CHOGM News
  • Editor of In Touch
  • Author of small animal nutrition guidelines for breeders

Teaching and supervision

Professional Practice Unit of Study Coordinator.

  • Professional Practice 2.
  • Professional Practice 3.
  • Preparation for Veterinary Practice.
  • The Veterinary Professional 1
  • The Veterinary Professional 2

Preparatory Clinical Placement Programme Coordinator.

Clinical Consultation Skills Coordinator.

Clincical Skills Lab Coordinator

Current projects

  • University of Sydney Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee member.
  • Chairman, Mentoring project control group.
  • Universities Federation for Animal Welfare link for University of Sydney.
  • Animal Welfare Advisory Committee member.
  • University of Sydney Veterinary Alumni Executive member.
  • Alumni Council of the The University of Sydney - Associate Member.


  • Life Member Animal Welfare League.
  • Life Member Sydney University Sports Union.
  • Fellow, Australian Institute of Company Directors.
  • Member, Australian Journalists Association (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance).

Awards and honours

Global Leadership Award - 1994

Contributor of the Year

Royal Agricultural Society - 2004

Justice of the Peace

In the media

  • 702 ABC Sydney interviewed Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science about the popularity of rabbits as pets.
  • Radio 5AA interviewed Dr Peter Higgins from The University of Sydney about euthanasia of pets and grief.
  • Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science spoke about research in the genetics of Labradors and their predisposition to eat more than other breeds. ABC Sydney
  • Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science was interviewed on 702 ABC Sydney about pets and gardens.
  • ABC Radio interviewed Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science about how to prevent laminitis (Founder) in horses.
  • Vet Practice magazine Dr Peter Higgins from The University of Sydney quoted in an article on management of staff.
  • Radio 5AA Dr Peter Higgins from The University of Sydney discussing the rationale of quarantine requirements for animals entering Australia.
  • ABC Radio 702 interviewed by James Valentine talking about the socialisation of barking dogs in urban environments.
  • Radio 5AA speaking about the care and welfare of donkeys.
  • Channel 7 Sunriseinterviewed Dr Peter Higgins about methods to limit dog bites in the urban environment.
  • 702 ABC Sydney interviewed Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science about common plants that can cause health problems for pets.
  • Channel 10's The Project interviewed Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science about dog attacks.
  • Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science was quoted in a story about kanagroos detecting cancer aired on ABC Gippsland.
  • 702 ABC Sydney Afternoons interviewed Dr Peter Higgins from the Faculty of Veterinary Science about dog breeds.
  • Weekly radio program for 5AA on "Animal Care and Animal Welfare".
  • Dr Higgins was discussing "Dog attack crackdown" on the Sunrise. The watch the interview http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/19478753/dog-attack-crackdown/
  • Dr Higgins has twenty years experience in radio and television. He is a well known personality who has worked on the Today Show, Burke's Backyard, Off The Dish, Terry Willessee Tonight, Radio 2UE and 2GB, New Idea, Investigate, and Now Magazine.
  • He was part of the Communication planning and strategy for the 2000 Olympic Games as well as being on the board of The Sydney Media Centre.
  • A regular segment with Sunrise, 5AA, and 2UE.


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