Special Issue "Working Methods in the Field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Activities (AAA), and Education (AAE): An Open Discussion"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Human-Animal Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Lucia Francesca Menna
Website
Guest Editor
Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy
Interests: veterinary public health, animal-assisted interventions
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cristiano Scandurra
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Neuroscience, Reproductive Sciences and Dentistry, University of Naples Federico II, 80138 Napoli NA, Italy
Interests: clinical psychology; mental health; health promotion; health disparities; gender
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Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) are used in a variety of settings and populations for their cost-effectiveness and positive impacts on wellbeing and psycho-social functioning. AAIs continue to generate a great interest in scientific communities and clinical environments, highlighting the strong significance of the interactions and bonds between animals and human beings. However, scholars use different methods and definitions, and it is hard to find common working methods. Therefore, as researchers, we need to open an international and interdisciplinary discussion about this matter, with a particular focus on the different working methods used worldwide which also include the choice of the species and the individual animals.

This Special Issue is open to any subject area related to recent advances in the three main AAIs’ souls: Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), and Animal Assisted Education (AAE).

Prof. Lucia Francesca Menna
Prof. Cristiano Scandurra
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAIs) working methods
  • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) working methods
  • Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) working methods
  • Animal Assisted Education (AAE) working methods
  • Choice of animal species
  • Choice of animal individual
  • Role of veterinarians
  • Role of psychologists
  • Role of health professionals
  • Veterinarian sanitary protocols
  • AAIs and public health
  • Relationships between health professionals and animals
  • AAIs effectiveness
  • AAIs evaluation methods

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Outcomes of an Animal-Assisted Intervention in a Paediatric Day Hospital: Perceptions of Children and Parents
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1788; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101788 - 01 Oct 2020
Abstract
There is a growing interest in the use of animal-assisted intervention (AAI) as a non-pharmacological strategy to improve child welfare in hospitals. However, the efficacy of implementation of programmes based on activities with dogs in a paediatric day hospital is not known. An [...] Read more.
There is a growing interest in the use of animal-assisted intervention (AAI) as a non-pharmacological strategy to improve child welfare in hospitals. However, the efficacy of implementation of programmes based on activities with dogs in a paediatric day hospital is not known. An intra-subject quasi-experimental longitudinal design was used for the purpose of assessing the feasibility of such an intervention, as well as exploring the perceptions of its outcomes by children and parents/guardians. A total of 55 children in outpatient care at a paediatric day hospital participated in an AAI session. The application of this intervention was feasible. Self-assessment by the paediatric patients revealed a statistically significant improvement in their emotional state after the session, which was large in size. Parents confirmed this improvement in their child, perceiving significant changes in their mood, which were large in size. This study suggests that AAI is an effective approach when it comes to promoting the emotional welfare of children during their stay in hospital care environments. Participating in recreational occupations with dogs could contribute in a relevant and efficient way to the development of significant and gratifying experiences and to a more positive perception of healthcare centres on the part of children. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Animal-Assisted Therapy as a Non-Pharmacological Approach in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Retrospective Study
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1142; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071142 - 06 Jul 2020
Abstract
Recently, many efforts have been made to assess the effectiveness of non-pharmacological therapies as an alternative or supportive option to conventional approaches. Specifically, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has recently raised a great interest and large research efforts. This work represents a retrospective study carried [...] Read more.
Recently, many efforts have been made to assess the effectiveness of non-pharmacological therapies as an alternative or supportive option to conventional approaches. Specifically, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has recently raised a great interest and large research efforts. This work represents a retrospective study carried out over seven years (from 2012 to 2019) in 127 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The patients were divided into three groups: an experimental group that received AAT interventions adapted to the formal reality orientation therapy (ROT), a group receiving a formal ROT, and a control group that did not perform any of the previous therapies. All sessions, for all patient groups, were held weekly for a total period of six months. The evaluation of cognitive function was performed through the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), while the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) assessed the depressive state. Test administration to all patients was performed before the start of the first session (T0) and after the last session (T1). The results obtained showed an improvement in the values in the GDS and MMSE tests. The variations between the average MMSE values between T1 and T0 were 0.94 ± 0.9 (SD), 0.15 ± 0.62, and −0.42 ± 0.45 in the AAT group, ROT group, and control (CTRL) group, respectively. The variations between the average GDS values between T1 and T0 were −1.12 ± 1.17 (SD), −0.42 ± 1.21, and 0.12 ± 0.66 in the AAT group, ROT group, and CTRL group, respectively. Based on our findings, we can therefore affirm how the study carried out confirms the potential of AAT performed by Federico II Model of Healthcare Zooanthropology, and particularly its efficacy in the treatment of cognitive deficits deriving from Alzheimer’s disease. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
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 - 03 Jun 2020
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article

Review

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Open AccessReview
Methodological and Terminological Issues in Animal-Assisted Interventions: An Umbrella Review of Systematic Reviews
Animals 2020, 10(5), 759; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050759 - 27 Apr 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Recently, animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), which are defined as psychological, educational, and rehabilitation support activities, have become widespread in different contexts. For many years, they have been a subject of interest in the international scientific community and are at the center of an important [...] Read more.
Recently, animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), which are defined as psychological, educational, and rehabilitation support activities, have become widespread in different contexts. For many years, they have been a subject of interest in the international scientific community and are at the center of an important discussion regarding their effectiveness and the most appropriate practices for their realization. We carried out an umbrella review (UR) of systematic reviews (SRs), created for the purpose of exploring the literature and aimed at deepening the terminological and methodological aspects of AAIs. It is created by exploring the online databases PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane Library. The SRs present in the high-impact indexed search engines Web of Sciences and Scopus are selected. After screening, we selected 15 SRs that met the inclusion criteria. All papers complained of the poor quality of AAIs; some considered articles containing interventions that did not always correspond to the terminology they have explored and whose operating practices were not always comparable. This stresses the need for the development and consequent diffusion of not only operational protocols, but also research protocols which provide for the homogeneous use of universally recognized terminologies, thus facilitating the study, deepening, and comparison between the numerous experiences described. Full article
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Other

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Open AccessOpinion
Current Status of Animal-Assisted Interventions in Scientific Literature: A Critical Comment on Their Internal Validity
Animals 2020, 10(6), 985; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060985 - 05 Jun 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Many meta-analyses and systematic reviews have tried to assess the efficacy of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), reaching inconsistent conclusions. The present work posits a critical exploration of the current literature, using some recent meta-analyses to exemplify the presence of unattended threats. The present comment [...] Read more.
Many meta-analyses and systematic reviews have tried to assess the efficacy of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), reaching inconsistent conclusions. The present work posits a critical exploration of the current literature, using some recent meta-analyses to exemplify the presence of unattended threats. The present comment illustrates that the field (1) comprehends inconsistencies regarding the terms and definitions of AAIs; (2) pays more attention to the characteristics of the animals than to the action mechanisms of AAIs; (3) does not provide a clear connection between anthrozoology (how humans and non-human animals interact in communities), benefits of the human–animal interaction (HAI), and the design of AAIs; and (4) implicitly reinforces these phenomena through research designs. Thus, some conclusions extracted from these meta-analyses need further discussion. Increasing the internal validity of AAIs in empirical studies is an urgent task, which can be addressed by (1) developing a better understanding of how anthrozoology, the HAI, and AAIs relate to each other; (2) highlighting the mechanisms that explain the results in an empirical and specific way; and (3) changing the design of interventions, adopting a component-centered approach, and focusing on the incremental efficacy and efficiency of AAI programs. Full article
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