woman supervising little girl as she interacts with a dog in a classroom

Human Animal Interaction

First-of-its-kind risk assessment tool ensures the highest standards for animal-assisted interventions in schools

In any animal-assisted therapy setting, the safety and welfare of all involved are paramount – from the students and other participants to the staff and the animals.

To ensure these interventions are executed with the highest standards, researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK under the leadership of Professor Kerstin Meints in the School of Psychology have developed much-needed guidance and best practices, including unified safety and animal welfare guidelines applicable to any animal therapy programme or related interventions, as well as the first-ever comprehensive risk assessment tool for anima-assisted activities.

The work was funded by the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, Mars Petcare, and carried out in collaboration with Dr. Victoria Brelsford and Dr. Mirena Dimolareva, both Lincoln, and Prof Nancy Gee at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA.

Animal-assisted interventions in educational or other settings have become increasingly more common across the world in recent years, outpacing human-animal interaction research.  The team addressed the absence of unified, standardised guidelines or easy-to-use risk assessment tools to help providers implement these activities safely and effectively. 

We connected with Dr. Nancy Gee, Director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at VCU Health to get her take on the new risk assessment tool, the work she presented at the International Society for Anthrozoology 2020 Virtual Conference