Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help
School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Brayford Wharf East, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN5 7AY, UK
Division of Psychology, Bishop Grosseteste University, Longdales Road, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN1 3DY, UK
Center for Human-Animal Interaction, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298-0710, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
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.