As the worldwide popularity of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) increases, the field is quickly approaching a paradigm shift, adjusting its image to incorporate more evidence-based research and aligning its purpose for advancing a new future. Contemporary critical issues that confront the field today include, but are not limited, to research, animal welfare, practice guidelines, and public policy. This article will provide an overview of the history of AAI and the major milestones that the field has undergone. The current state of AAI research will be scrutinized, and the areas that warrant further study will be recommended. Special attention will be given to the current state of animal welfare in AAI, the research that has been done in the area, and practice guidelines that safeguard animal wellbeing. This article will then discuss how evidence-based research and animal welfare guidelines inform the development of comprehensive professional standards and influence changes in public policy regarding AAI. The authors’ perceptions for the field’s future trajectory will be presented, which will include solutions to move the field in the direction that best advances the human-animal bond in research, practice, and public perception.
Current advances in technologies and treatments provide pet owners and veterinarians with more options for prolonging the life of beloved pets, but can simultaneously lead to ethical dilemmas relating to what is best for both animal and owner. Key tools for improving end-of-life outcomes include (1) sufficient training to understand the valid ethical approaches to determining when euthanasia is appropriate, (2) regular training in client communication skills, and (3) a standard end-of-life protocol that includes the use of quality of life assessment tools, euthanasia consent forms, and pet owner resources for coping with the loss of a pet. Using these tools will improve outcomes for animals and their owners and reduce the heavy burden of stress and burnout currently being experienced by the veterinary profession.
The objective of this study was to provide preliminary findings from an ongoing randomized clinical trial using a canine-assisted intervention (CAI) for 24 children with ADHD.
Project Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids (P.A.C.K.) was designed to study a 12-week cognitive-behavioral intervention delivered with or without CAI. Children were randomly assigned to group therapy with or without CAI. Parents of children in both groups simultaneously participated in weekly parent group therapy sessions.
Across both treatment groups, parents reported improvements in children’s social skills, prosocial behaviors, and problematic behaviors. In both groups, the severity of ADHD symptoms declined during the course of treatment; however, children who received the CAI model exhibited greater reductions in the severity of ADHD symptoms than did children who received cognitive-behavioral therapy without CAI.
Results suggest that CAI offers a novel therapeutic strategy that may enhance cognitive-behavioral interventions for children with ADHD.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the most ubiquitous mental health problem in children, has been associated with poor self-esteem. Psychosocial interventions have aimed to improve self-esteem among this group, with the aim of reducing the development of comorbid depression and anxiety. The present study implemented a randomized control design to examine the possibility of Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) as a viable approach to improving self-esteem among children with ADHD. Children's self-esteem across multiple domains as measured by the Self-Perception Profile for Children was evaluated (n = 80, ages 7–9, 71% male). To test the hypothesis that AAI improves self-esteem, stratified Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Tests (SAS NPAR1WAY procedure) were used to compare pre- to post-treatment ratings. Analyses indicated that scores of children's self-perceptions in the domains of behavioral conduct, social, and scholastic competence, were significantly increased from baseline to post-treatment in the AAI group (z = 2.320, p = .021, z = 2.631, p = .008, and z = 2.541, p = .011, respectively), whereas pre-post-treatment differences in self-perceptions were not found for the children in the control group without AAI. Findings suggest that AAI is a viable strategy for improving ratings of self-perceived self-esteem in children with ADHD.
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