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Animal assisted intervention (AAI)

13.6.2018

When former stray dogs become therapy dogs

A bit of history...

The earliest reported use of animals as an adjunct to therapy was performed in the late 18th century at the York Retreat in England and was led by William Tuke. Mentally ill patients were allowed to wander the grounds of the establishment which contained a population of small domestic animals who were believed to be effective tools for socialisation.

In 1860, the Bethlem Hospital in England adopted the same practice and provided animals to their ward, greatly influencing the morale of their patients.

In 1961, Dr. Boris Levinson was the first one to document how animals in a therapy setting with children provided a way to ease the therapy sessions.

Today, AAT is more popular than ever and is delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, and/or volunteers, in association with animals that meet specific criteria.

Animal-assisted therapy with former strays

People’s attitude towards stray dogs are wide-ranging. If some people understand that these dogs have just fallen into unfortunate circumstances and still deserve as much love as any other creature, many try to avoid them, as they are either afraid of the dogs’ possible aggressive reaction or consider them sources of diseases. If some stray dogs surely assert their dominance after years of living on dangerous streets, many of them are docile, kind and loving.

In an effort to prove that stray dogs can be an immense asset to the society, FOUR PAWS introduced in 2004 the first Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) programme in which former stray dogs are selected, trained and certified by experts to become therapy dogs.

Within the AAI Programme, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a type of complementary therapy that involves guided interaction with animals to facilitate healing and rehabilitation of patients with acute or chronic disease. It is believed to have an array of benefits, including personal and social development, increased self-esteem, improved mental health, better social skills and increased empathy and nurturing skills.

Our AAT programme combines consulting and psychological support with animal assisted therapy for children and adults with disabilities, with special health care needs and chronic health conditions. Targeted areas of interventions are autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays and mental disabilities.

Developed to benefit both people and animals, our programme aims to change people’s perception and attitude towards stray dogs by emphasising the societal value as therapy and companion dogs. One of the desired side effects is that through a change in perspective about stray dogs, people would also consider adopting strays as companion animals.