ISAZ 2018

Symposium 7

Best practices and standards for animal-assisted interventions

Date: Wednesday 4th July
Time: 1:15 pm - 2:15 pm
Room: Platypus Room (Seminar Rooms 1.2/1.4)

Chairs/speakers:

Deborah Linder

Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction, North Grafton, MA, United States 

Nancy Gee

Department of Psychology, SUNY, Fredonia, NY, United States

As the exciting field of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) grows with enthusiasm, the need for guidelines and best practices also grows in order to protect the health and welfare of both humans and animals engaged in AAI. AAI programs can lead to positive physical and mental health outcomes for human participants, but without appropriate policies in place, these programs can also jeopardize human and animal safety. In addition to concerns about human allergies to animals, animal behavior, stress on the animal and appropriate immunizations, AAI programs have a potential risk of transmission of zoonotic disease—diseases spread between animals and people. This risk is especially high when health and grooming protocols are not carefully used. To better characterize this risk, a recent study was conducted with a national survey of health and safety policies for therapy animal organizations and healthcare facilities in which AAI took place.  The results were rather startling and showed that many respondents’ policies and practices did not address these and other risks. Over 20% of eldercare facilities had no policies whatsoever for AAI programs. 

Given this documented variance in health and safety policies, this proposed concept for ISAZ 2018 is to engage in a dialogue about best practices and standards for AAI, particularly for those stakeholders not normally considered such as facilities and professionals. The objectives of this session are to encourage leaders in this field to be aware of this discrepancy that is occurring in AAI internationally and come together from many disciplines with ideas on how to address this growing concern to ensure AAI is safe and beneficial for all.

These objectives will be achieved by introducing the results of survey, followed by presentations by experts on the paraprofessional and human perspective as well as the veterinary and facility perspective. The one hour symposium will conclude with a discussion forum and call to action for hospitals, facilities, and therapy animal organizations to strengthen the safety measures of their AAI programs and for those hosting programs to ask the right questions when arranging AAI at these sites. 

Reference

Linder DE, Siebens HC, Mueller MK, Gibbs DM, Freeman LM. Animal-assisted interventions: A national survey of health and safety policies in hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations. Am J Infect Control. 2017;45(8):883-887.