Every profession follows their own ethical guidelines concerning that particular field. These guidelines are meant for Animal Assisted Intervention within those parameters.
In this context ‘customer’ is defined as a person to whom professionals in the field of social work, healthcare or education are offering Animal Assisted Intervention. The working relationship in Animal Assisted Intervention consists of confidential interaction between the professional and their customer.
The umbrella term used in the field is Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI). The term includes Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Animal Assisted Education/Pedagogy (AAE), Animal Assisted Social Work (AASW) as well as Animal Assisted Activity (AAA). However, Animal Assisted Activity is usually volunteer work which does not require the same professional qualifications as Animal Assisted Therapy, Animal Assisted Education/Pedagogy or Animal Assisted Social Work.
Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) in this context means the work carried out by a team of a professional and their certified dog in the field of social work, healthcare or education. The goal is to enhance the customer’s health, education, well-being or rehabilitation; depending on the case.
Goal Directed Intervention
The goal of AAI is to enhance and maintain the customer’s performance. The intervention is always based on pre-evaluation of the customer which uses information derived from the customer’s immediate circle and social network, if necessary. Based on the pre-evaluation, together with the customer and their immediate circle the professional makes a plan, sets goals and evaluates the intervention. Prior to the intervention, the professional will explain the benefits but also limits of AAI. AAI is always based on respectful cooperation and appreciative interaction. The intervention always strives to enhance the customer’s individuality and involvement as well as to support the customer’s strengths and trust.
Briefing and Documentation
The professional using AAI is responsible for informing the other working community, the customer, the customer’s immediate circle and essential third parties of the contents, practices and results of the intervention. The professional documents the intervention abiding by existing laws and regulations.
AAI requires continuous professional development. This includes both training the dog used in the intervention as well as developing one’s own professional skills. In addition to one’s professional education, the Finnish Association for Dog Assisted Intervention recommends in-service training on Animal Assisted Intervention minimum of 10 academic credits. The association’s primary recommendation is Koira-avusteinen kasvatus- ja kuntoutustyö täydennyskoulutus 10 op which at the moment is executed in cooperation with JAMK University of Applied Sciences and The Finnish Association for Dog Assisted Intervention. In addition, one should undertake at least five (5) hours of continuing education relevant to AAI annually.
Qualifications and Training of Dogs
The Dog used in AAI must be well-behaved and reliable, and have basic obedience training as well as necessary vaccinations. A dog who is fearful of or aggressive to people must never be used in AAI.
The professional is responsible for making sure that their dog has received basic training using positive reinforcement or reward based techniques. If tools are used either in the training or in the intervention, they mustn’t cause discomfort, harm or danger to the dog, the professional or the surroundings.
Prior to AAI, the dog used must pass an aptitude test in which experts of canine behavior evaluate the dog’s suitability for the work. To become certified by the association, the handler and the dog must undergo a further aptitude test in which the experts assess the handler and the dog in that field.
The professional will ensure safety of the intervention and abide by existing laws and regulations. The professional will also obtain and maintain required liability insurance in cooperation with their employer.
The Welfare of the Dog
The professional will make sure the dog has medical clearance to participate in AAI prior to starting the work, and ensure the welfare and comfort of the dog in both work and leisure time. The dog should become familiar with the workplace as early as possible. When planning and executing AAI, the professional should keep in mind the dog’s attributes and health.
AAI must be enjoyable for the dog. The professional must monitor their dog for signs of stress. They must also be able to identify and assess the dog’s ability to work at all times. The dog must get enough rest and should be provided with the opportunity to retreat to a safe place during and / or in-between sessions. Proper rest and recovery must also be ensured during leisure time.
It is recommended to keep the dog off leash during AAI. This will make the work more enjoyable for the dog and give it a chance to leave the situation should the dog so wish. Animal protection laws and guidelines must be followed in all of the situations mentioned above.
Termination of Services
The professional, the customer or the dog has the right and the duty to turn down AAI if the activity is not purposeful. The owner of the dog carries the responsibility for the welfare and safe working conditions of the dog. Should one or the other be compromised, AAI must be discontinued. One must also respect the customer’s wishes; should they feel uncomfortable with AAI, the service must be discontinued.
The professional using AAI must evaluate the situation and the rights of both people and animals. Based on this, AAI must be discontinued when it is not appropriate or puts the safety of any party involved at risk.