Defining and describing companion, assistance, service, and emotional support animals
Date: Thursday 5th July
Time: 1:30 pm - 3:15 pm
Room: Dingo Room (Dry Teaching Room 1.2)
Chairs: Tiffani Howell & Pauleen Bennett
Anthrozoology Research Group, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is responsible for facilitating disability management support programs for thousands of Australians with disability. Some individuals may have their functional needs addressed through funding for an animal, such as a guide dog or animal-assisted therapy as an early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. However, several terms (e.g. emotional support animal, companion animal, assistance animal, service animal) within animal-assisted interventions are vague, often used by different organisations to mean different things. This makes it difficult for practitioners and researchers worldwide to understand the precise roles of the animals working under these terms. It also makes it challenging for the NDIA to understand whether a particular type of intervention should be supported. All of these terms would therefore benefit from clear, operationalised definitions with objective features of each category. A description of the animal species and/or breeds which would be most (or least) suitable for each role would also be useful. This symposium, which will take the form of a workshop, aims to begin discussions with experts worldwide to define these terms. It will ultimately result in a white paper disseminated to the NDIA, as well as to academics and AAI practitioners around the world. It will provide conceptually distinct, clear definitions of each of these terms, including defining features and the species/breeds that would be most appropriate for each role.
Symposium structure: This 1 hour 45 minute symposium will be in a workshop-style format, with a brief (5-10 minute) presentation by Dr Howell at the beginning, describing the aim of the symposium and detailing any print materials which will be provided to delegates. These materials are yet to be developed, but we anticipate that they will include a summary of existing research attempting to define these terms, an overview of the different ways in which these terms are used, both in academic writing and among practitioners, and draft definitions to begin the discussion. We will break out into small groups of 6-10 people to discuss for approximately 45 minutes. Around 60 minutes into the symposium, we will bring our ideas to the entire group for further discussion. Finally, we will synthesise the main themes discussed during the symposium, which will be used to develop a white paper for later publication.