Kiersten Hartnagel wearing a graduation cap and gown holding her cat

Kiersten Hartnagel


B.S., Pre-veterinary medicine, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2020
M.S. in Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, 2021


What were you doing before entering the M.S. in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program?
I recently just graduated from UMass Amherst with my bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary medicine. I spent the last 13 months training a goldador to become a service dog- she graduated July 31st. I have spent my summer focused on making the most of my time left with her by doing hikes, public outings, training, and of course lots of cuddles.

What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
I was looking for careers to pursue after receiving my bachelor’s and I was really interested in animal welfare. After looking into careers previous graduates pursued, I was very interested in all the possibilities this program will open up to me. I am very interested in animal welfare and human-animal interaction and I think this program will allow me to make a positive impact in these aspects throughout society.

Interests in and experience with animals prior to joining the MAPP program:
I have been working with and training service dogs since December 2017. I worked in an animal shelter, administering vaccines, blood draws, medications, and adopting out the animals. I was also lucky enough to spend the summer of 2019 in Ecuador working with wildlife doing rehabilitation and working closely with the Ecuadorian government to ensure animal laws were being followed. This also included a lot of animal enrichment and socialization. I briefly worked in a veterinary clinic, which I did not enjoy. I also worked in a research lab working with canine mammary tumors trying to find a cure for cancer, which would then be transferred to human cancer. My undergraduate at UMass Amherst also allowed me to get plenty of hands on experience with livestock animals- goats, sheep, horses, chickens, cows.

What are your outside interests?
I have spent the last 3 years of my free time training service dogs or working basically full time. I also like to watch Netflix or play a game of fetch with my cat.

Number of pets? What type?
I have a 2.5-year-old calico cat named Callie. She thinks she’s a dog and loves to play fetch.

MAPP Externship

This summer I completed my externship at the non-profit organization Farm Forward, where I worked on their humanewashing campaign. I added content to a Wikipedia page to help consumers better understand the difference between their expectations and the realities of a major animal welfare certification, compiled a list of websites and organizations that explain food labels, and researched aquaculture welfare standards of Global Animal Partnership and American Humane Certified to help Farm Forward in their efforts to inform the public about these certifications.

My final paper discussed the multiple food labels that currently exist in our food system, detailing what consumers think they mean vs. what they actually entail, and exploring the USDA’s role in creating, regulating, and penalizing those who fail to comply with these standards. I also discussed how certifications and labels are influenced by the industry, which restricts them from asking for better welfare standards.

My externship taught me how to strengthen my research skills, better understand common uses of deception to persuade the public, and effectively use my voice in advocacy. I hope to continue to advocate for animals, especially animals within the food industry, to push for higher welfare standards and better educate the public on issues that they might not be aware of.