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Open AccessArticle

Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help

1
School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Brayford Wharf East, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN5 7AY, UK
2
Division of Psychology, Bishop Grosseteste University, Longdales Road, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN1 3DY, UK
3
Center for Human-Animal Interaction, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298-0710, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(6), 974; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060974
Received: 22 April 2020 / Revised: 27 May 2020 / Accepted: 28 May 2020 / Published: 3 June 2020
Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) in educational and other settings have steadily increased over the last fifty years. While scientific research on the effects of AAI is still growing, the application in the field has overtaken the science and seen a steep rise in many countries and settings in recent years. Surprisingly, while different organisations provide a range of guidelines, no unified, standardised guidelines exist, nor do easy-to-use risk assessment tools for AAI providers and users exist. With differences in practical application and different policies used by AAI providers worldwide, this means that in practice AAI takes place in an unregulated manner without a gold standard of best practice. To ensure safe AAI worldwide, we provide urgently needed unified guidelines on best practice in relation to risk assessment, safeguarding and animal welfare priorities. We also provide the first comprehensive risk assessment and animal welfare tools to achieve consistent welfare and safety standards for best practice across educational and other settings around the world.
Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) in educational and other settings have steadily increased over the last fifty years and a steep rise in AAI has been observed in many countries and settings in recent years. Surprisingly, while different providers and organisations provide a range of guidelines, no unified, standardised guidelines or risk assessment tools for AAI exist. This means that in practice AAI takes place in an unregulated manner and without a gold standard of best practice. In addition, knowledge of which interventions are effective is still scarce and the mechanisms of successful interventions are not yet fully understood. This is partly due to AAI being a relatively new research field and standards of research and practice have often lacked rigour in the past. Furthermore, knowledge and experience of providers undertaking interventions varies greatly as there is no standardised training either. We address the striking lack of standardised guidelines and procedures. In all AAI, high importance should be placed on safety and welfare of all involved. Children and other AAI participants, staff and animals should be given equal consideration when assessing risks and welfare needs. To ensure safe AAI worldwide, we provide urgently needed guidelines on best practice in relation to risk assessment, safeguarding and animal welfare priorities. The guidelines were developed for a large-scale longitudinal, randomised controlled trial AAI project and are relevant to AAIs within educational and other settings. We also provide the first set of comprehensive risk assessment and animal welfare tools to achieve consistent welfare and safety standards for best practice across educational and other settings around the world. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal-assisted interventions; dog-assisted interventions; safety standards; risk assessment tool; risk assessment; risk; best practice recommendations animal-assisted interventions; dog-assisted interventions; safety standards; risk assessment tool; risk assessment; risk; best practice recommendations
MDPI and ACS Style

Brelsford, V.L.; Dimolareva, M.; Gee, N.R.; Meints, K. Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help. Animals 2020, 10, 974. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060974

AMA Style

Brelsford VL, Dimolareva M, Gee NR, Meints K. Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help. Animals. 2020; 10(6):974. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060974

Chicago/Turabian Style

Brelsford, Victoria L.; Dimolareva, Mirena; Gee, Nancy R.; Meints, Kerstin. 2020. "Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help" Animals 10, no. 6: 974. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060974

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Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

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