Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI)

The following is derived from the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organization.

Given the biological and psychological evidence for the innate affinity of humans to companion animals and a commitment to their health and welfare, ESAD overwhelmingly embraces the concept of “One Health,” which asserts that the health and wellness of animals, people, and the environment are inextricably linked.

Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI)

An Animal Assisted Intervention is a goal oriented intervention that intentionally includes or incorporates animals in health, education and human service (e.g., social work) for the purpose of therapeutic gains in humans. Animal assisted interventions incorporate human-animal teams in formal human service such as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT): Animal Assisted Therapy is a goal oriented, planned and structured therapeutic intervention directed and/or delivered by health, education and human service professionals. Intervention progress is measured and included in professional documentation. AAT is delivered and/or directed by a formally trained (with active licensure, degree or equivalent) professional with expertise within the scope of the professionals’ practice. AAT focuses on enhancing physical, cognitive, behavioral and/or socio-emotional functioning of the particular human client.


Human Wellbeing

Safety measures for clients must be in place. Professionals must reduce risk for clients involved in AAI. They must ensure that clients do not have species or breed specific allergies, be aware of high risk in some population and of exclusion criteria depending on the risk (e.g., infection in immune-suppressed patients, and diseases which can be spread from client to client via the animal). Appropriate testing with individual animals is advised.

Clients may have different views about specific animals included in interventions. When the clients’ beliefs – religious, cultural, or otherwise – run counter to recommended AAI, it is advisable that professionals discuss with clients alternative options.

Animal Wellbeing

AAI should only be performed with the assistance of animals that are in good health, both physically and emotionally and that enjoy this type of activity. Professionals are held accountable for the well-being of the animals they are working with. In all AAA professionals need to consider the safety and welfare of all participants. Professionals must understand that the participating animal, independent of the species, is not simply a tool, but a living being.

Only domesticated animals can be involved in interventions and activities.

Not all animals, including many that would be considered “good pets” by their owners, are good candidates for AAI. Animals considered for participation in AAI should be carefully evaluated by an expert in animal behavior such as veterinarians and animal behaviorists. Only those with the proper disposition and training should be selected for AAI.

Professionals must have an understanding of animal specific boundaries that are normal and respectful to them. Animals participating in AAI should never be involved in such ways that their safety and comfort are jeopardized. Examples of such inappropriate activities and therapy exercises include, but are not limited to, clients (children and adults) jumping or bending over animals, dressing up animals in human clothes or costumes, outfitting animals with uncomfortable accessories (dressing other that clothes such as bandanas, weather related jackets, booties designed specifically for animals), or asking an animal to perform physically challenging or stressful tasks (e.g., crawling, leaning/bending in unnatural positions, pulling heavy gear) or tricks and exercises that require such movements and postures. Clients should be supervised at all times and in all settings (e.g., schools, therapy sites, nursing homes) to make sure that they are not teasing the animal (e.g., pulling tail/ears, sitting on or crawling under the animal) or otherwise treating the animal inappropriately, thereby putting themselves and the animal at risk.

Proper veterinary care must be provided.

Adequate measures must be taken to prevent zoonoses. Professionals must ensure that the animals receive a routine health evaluation by a licensed veterinarian at least once a year regarding appropriate (flea), parasite, ( tick or mange) prevention ( control) and screening for specific, potentially zoonotic microorganisms, including group A streptococci, if indicated.