Vol. 67, No. 2 | Fall 2022

In Memoriam

In Memorium:
Peter L. Borchelt

Peter L. Borchelt, age 78, died in mid May, 2022 after battling chronic health conditions for a number of years. Pete was a long-time member of the Animal Behavior Society. He was an early member of the Animal Care Committee and played an important role in the creation the ABS Applied Animal Behavior Certification Program. At the ABS Annual Meeting in Knoxville, TN, in June of 1981 Pete stood up during the Business Meeting and suggested that “ABS … consider licensing or registering ethologists or animal behaviorists.” He argued that there were numerous people and firms that advised or consulted on animal behavior problems but in many cases the consultants had no formal training in animal behavior. Jack Hailman, President of the Society, referred the suggestion to the ABS Policy Committee. This set-in motion a nine-year process involving four different ad-hoc committees that created the Issues in Applied Animal Behavior Committee and the Program in Professional Certification for Animal Behaviorists. Pete was involved in the process from the beginning and was appointed as one of the five original certificants and a member of the Board of Professional Certification in June of 1990. Pete was unusual at the time because he was one of the few consultants in private practice who did not have a full-time academic appointment. He demonstrated that one could make a living from a full-time private practice.

Pete started his path to this unusual occupation in a most traditional academic way, achieving Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University in the early 1970s and then doing post-doctoral work at the Animal Behavior Department of the American Museum of Natural History. He taught and did research at Fordham University for four years before striking out on his own to set up his animal behavior consulting practice.

Despite the demands of his private practice, Pete was able to publish over 75 original research studies, review papers, and book chapters during his career, many with his colleague Victoria Voith, a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, ABS Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and applied animal behavior pioneer in her own right. Their writings influenced a generation of applied animal behaviorists concerned with the behavior problems of domestic dogs and cats and continue to be influential to this day.

Pete’s contributions were more than academic – he mentored dozens of aspiring applied animal behaviorists, he was always willing to talk to others about animal behavior consulting, and he loved to take would-be consultants on his in-home behavior cases so students could see how the process of consulting was conducted. Afterwards he would sit, sometimes for hours, answering questions and patiently explaining the rationale for his consulting methods and his recommendations to the clients.

For those that knew him well, the late-night phone call from Pete was not uncommon. He seemed to do his best thinking late at night, and then he would call a colleague to talk about his latest idea about a behavioral problem, an idea for a new research project or to pick the brains of his sleepy friends about the application of new research findings. Pete was always looking for collaborators and many of his most influential works were done with others. He developed a headcollar, patented as a “Snoot Loop,” which he later sold to his beloved friend and student Nancy Williams who became an ACAAB in large part due to Pete’s encouragement and mentorship. Together, Nancy and Pete went on to, publish several articles on response prevention during behavior modification in dogs, using a unique full body restraint technique, known more informally as “the grain box.”

One of Pete’s influential projects was the Animal Behavior Consultant Newsletter. From early 1984 to late 1994, Pete collaborated with another applied animal behavior pioneer, John Wright of Mercer University, to create and distribute the Newsletter. The two published the Newsletter 4 times a year and it contained articles about animal behavior consulting, a reference list of published articles, case studies of pet behavior problems, and listings of up-coming conferences and meetings. For the first issue, Pete wrote an article entitled “Starting a Practice: or What Should I Consider Before Jumping In?” Importantly, the Newsletter also provided an international listing of those interested in, or currently consulting on, animal behavior problems. This helped to draw together those with similar interests and increased the interest in formal certification of applied animal behaviorists. It was also a helpful resource for students considering a career in the field because the newsletter helped direct them to potential mentors.

Pete’s hobbies were as unconventional as was his profession. For a few years Pete raced stock cars, specializing in small family cars such as the two-door Volkswagen. Pete didn’t win many races but enjoyed the competition. Those who rode with Pete on his consulting house-calls believe he used his racing skills to get to his consults on time and to get rare street-side parking spots despite the competition in crowded New York City.

Peter Borchelt will be missed as an important contributor to the science of animal behavior, a clear-thinking communicator of applied animal behavior practice and a warm, generous, caring and personable human being.

Dan Estep
Suzanne Hetts
Pamela Reid
Victoria Voith
Nancy Williams
John Wright
Photo credit: Dan Estep



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Animal Behaviour

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