Diane introduced herself and then her ‘co-trainer’ for the day – her dog Lexie, whilst
explaining what made her such a suitable companion animal. Lexie and another
assistance dog, who was present, were well behaved, as I must say were the humans.
The dogs were so chilled which I felt signified a ‘thumbs up’ for the venue and those
present. Not all animals are suited to this work. In fact, one of Diane’s previous dogs,
she said, was definitely not – too much of a free spirit, but Lexi was just right. All animals
must be checked and confirmed by their Vet or SCAS or other relevant organisation
before they can be considered suitable.The animal’s physical and emotional welfare is
paramount, as too are the therapists and their work spaces. The required training,
supervision, therapy and ethical foundation enable them to be safe and appropriate.
Diane then asked a little about each of us and why we were interested in Animal
Assisted therapy? There were those who wished to practice with their own animals if
possible, others wished to understand more about the subject in order to be able to
refer safely where appropriate and, finally, some wished to understand how they could
use the skills and techniques in alternative ways such as: out in nature, on a boat, in a
garden, using painting or pottery, by the sea, through metaphor and imagery etc.The
scope here is limitless it seems.
Explaining that she had worked with Companion Animals for more than 20 years, Diane
set the agenda for the day reminding us to ‘take care of ourselves in the process because
parts of it might be difficult to see and hear and, therefore, may trigger an emotional
response’. As we worked step by step through the day Diane mentioned one, not to be
forgotten, underlying feature which was ‘Animals share with us the privilege of having a
soul’, Pythagoras. As we strive, therefore, to practice within our Ethical Framework to
‘do no harm to our clients’ the same must apply to our companion animals. Diane
stressed that in order to avoid harm and resultant serious issues preparation, patience
and perception are vital core ingredients of safe practice for both animals and humans
alike. And so through the course of the day we explored:
What were the various types of Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs)?
The role of the Human Companion Animal Bond (HCAB) with its centuries’ old
The moral, ethical and legal issues around AAI and, of course, Insurance.
What makes a suitable therapy animal?
Alternatives – if we cannot involve an animal, how can we undertake AAI?
To understand some of the PAT assessment and tasks that therapy dogs
The role of specialist supervision and why we need it? This Diane said was a
How do each of us see AAI as part of our own counselling/psychotherapy
Access to further information, training or support from the different AAI
The element that underpins this work together with a good therapuetic relationship, is
the Human-Companion Animal Bond (HCAB). Baun et al (1991) described this as ‘An
attachment that can be interpreted as an affectionate, friendly and companionable
interaction between a human and an animal’. This must be in place for the assistance
animal to be safe and its needs protected. It must be allowed to choose whether to
work with a particular client and to have the freedom to come in and out of the room at
will. Empowering therapeutic work is conducted between willing participants, be they
human or animal, within a safe and respectful alliance. Mahatma Gandhi (1868 – 1948)
explained ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its
animals are treated’. So it can be said of the therapeutic world.
A detailed discussion about the legal, moral and ethical aspects of working with animals
followed. These elements may be seen in different ways and so we learned how to
relate the terms and aspects in the world of AAIs. The Animal Welfaire Act 2006,
particularly sections 1, 2, 3, 4 & 9, highlight their need for access to the Five Freedoms:
‘To be able to express normal behaviour (Diane explained how vital it is for animals to
have space and time to retreat and to be outside in the fresh air as this protects them
from stress and supports their wellbeing); To be free from pain, injury and disease; from
hunger and thirst; from fear and distress and from discomfort’. Care must be taken that
these freedoms are not overlooked in therapy room. The ‘legal’ we could understand,
but when it came to ethical (Codes of behavious expected by a group or social setting)
and moral (morals often define a personal character) it became more down to
interpretation. Therefore, the holdiing of benefical boundaries for animals to avoid
abusing them, even when not meaning to, is key. Difficult questions had to be faced
especially during the video clips Diane shared. The challenging truth is that animals are
seen differently in different cultures and where some honour them, others do not –
including sadly here in the UK.
Diane had genorously shared elements of her work, stories of success and occasional
difficulty. She is closely involved with the professional bodies in this field ensuring that
animals are safe. It became clear this is a huge subject which highlights the fact that
thought, perception and preparation must be in place before anyone even begins to
work with companion animals.
Thank you, Diane. This was an insightful, informative and inspiring experience into a
different way of working. Your preparation, knowledge and sharing, plus the quality of
the booklet that guided us through the day was, as always, second to none.
‘It is a universal , natural and basic human right to benefit from the presence of animals’.
IAHAIO Resolution Tokyo,
Jacqueline Holloway, HACP Co-ordinator
Baun N., Oetting M. & Berstrom K. (1991, ‘Health Benefits of companion animals in
relation to the physiologic indices of relaxtion’. Holistic Nursing Practice, 5 (2). 16-23.
Chandler C.K. 2017 3 rd Edition. ‘Animal Assisted Therapy in Counselling’. Oxford,
DEFRA 2006 ‘Animal Welfare Act, 2006. London. The Stationery Office Ltd.
( www.defra.gov.uk )
Diane Hardiman, 2012, Sept., ‘The Human-Animal Bond (J. Daniel. Ed) Private Practice, 24
Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) www.scas.org.uk
Pets as Therapy .www.petsastherapy.org. Diane Hardiman,
Assistance Dogs UK (AD UK) www.assistancedogs.org.uk
International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO)
International Society for Animal Assisted Therapy (ISAAT) – see IAHAIO.