Animal-Assisted Services may help with the prevention and management of mental illness, disease, disability and suffering for people of all ages, and in many settings.
The animal-assisted services sector is made up of a range of volunteers and different professionals who work within the scope of their practice alongside approved animals.
These types of services are goal-directed programs designed to promote improvement in people with intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive and psychosocial conditions in which a specially trained animal-handler team is an integral part. It is directed and/or delivered by a practitioner with specialized expertise within the scope of practice of his/her profession.
Treatment can take several forms and may be group or individual in nature. There are different types of animal-assisted services and it’s important to note the distinctions.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is directed and/or delivered by a qualified allied health professional with education and specialized expertise within the scope of practice of his/her profession. AAT may be provided in a variety of settings, may be group or individual in nature and may be implemented for persons of any age. There are specific goals for each individual involved and the process is documented and evaluated. Practitioners may be Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Speech Therapists, Mental Health Social Workers, Counsellors, Nurses or Physical Therapists. Animals should be assessed as suitable.
Animal-Assisted Learning / Education (AAL) involves an approved animal and a facilitator in an ‘experiential’ learning environment to assist an individual or group develop skills, tools and strategies to achieve a predetermined goal. AAL practitioners are trained in their field of expertise to facilitate specific learning outcomes. Can include corporate coaching, leadership, team building, personal development and self management. Facilitators may be teachers, coaches, mentors, educators or trained in animal behaviour with education training.
Animal-Assisted Support Activities (AAA) consists of animal visits by a handler / approved animal team to people in workplaces, hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, universities and other institutions to alleviate stress, boost morale, contribute to wellbeing, provide a distraction for pain management and to provide therapeutic relief. These visits are therapeutic in nature due and handlers may be volunteers who do not hold any specific professional qualification. Examples of Animal-Assisted Support may include Court Dogs, Dogs on Campus, Farm based programs, Visitation Animals. Please refer to our Conduct Standards for the minimum ages recommended for animals. Research has showed an increase in oxytocin and reduction in cortisol levels may be experienced when interacting positively with an animal for a certain period of time.
Assistance Animals (often dogs “AD”) help their handler better access public life and manage their condition such as physical impairment, diabetes, eye disease, hearing and vision impairment, seizures, asthma, life threatening allergies, people who experience episodic and serious medical crises (e.g. epilepsy, changes in blood pressure or blood sugar); and people with psychosocial conditions such as post traumatic stress, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideology and other psychological conditions.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) in Section 9, sets out the legal definition of an assistance animal as a dog or other animal that:
(a) is accredited under a State or Territory law to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of disability; or
(b) is accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed in the regulations; or
(c) is trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.
Assistance animals have a legal right to access public places and are not to be patted or distracted as they are working animals. They support people in accessing various aspects of personal and public life. They can be trained in tasks to alert their handler of an oncoming medical episode or to assist with everyday tasks. An assistance animal must meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. Please do not ask the handler of an assistance animal about their condition.
Animal-Assisted Service Providers registered in the National Directory are expected to abide by the ATL Code of Ethics.
If you are thinking about working in this field please review both our Code of Ethics and Conduct Standards.
If you have any questions concerning ATL’s Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct, OR if you would like to provide your thoughts and feedback concerning the Codes, please contact ATL through the email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to report a listed service that you believe is not complying with the Codes, please contact ATL by phone 0437 89 40 61 or through the email: email@example.com
However, if you have serious concerns for the welfare or wellbeing of any animal, please contact the RSPCA immediately via the website: https://www.rspca.org.au/report-cruelty