I attended a conference yesterday titled Animal Assisted Interventions. The speaker travels across the United States and has an impressive resume. There was substantial data on the history of the human-animal bond and founders of this type of work. However, the section titled "starting your own practice" had no comments on the ethical treatment of the animals we work with. There was no mention of knowing your dog's stress signals. No mention of taking the animals needs into consideration when working with clients. If a dog was showing stress or aggression, he stated it was due to poor training. I countered that the work may not be appropriate for the animal in that situation.
I also met some school counselors who have dogs working with them at school that were trained with a shock collar and are not registered with a therapy organization. There are little to no protocols in place for the programs. The dogs "hang out" with kids while the counselor is teaching.
So these two trends have me concerned and I want to do what I can to counter them.
1. We MUST know our animals and keep their needs at the forefront of our programs.
2. We MUST have high quality programs with qualified animals and protocols that highlight the positive outcomes of this work and significantly decrease the risks involved.
Please take a look at your own programs and ensure these are being met.