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J Vet Med Educ. Summer 2017;44(2):229-233. doi: 10.3138/jvme.0116-021. Epub 2016 Jul 14.

The Role of Veterinary Education in Safety Policies for Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities in Hospitals and Nursing Homes.

Abstract

Animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programs are increasing in popularity, but current programs vary in their safety and health policies. Veterinarians can have an important role in ensuring the safety of both the animals and humans involved, but it is unclear how best to educate veterinary students to serve effectively in this role. Therefore, the goal of this study was to assess the knowledge gaps and perceptions of first-year veterinary students on health and safety aspects of AAA/AAT programs by administering a survey. This information could then guide future educational training in veterinary schools to address the knowledge gaps in this area. Formal education during the veterinary curriculum had not yet been provided to these students on AAA/AAT before the survey. Of 98 first-year veterinary students, 91 completed the survey. When asked about policies on visiting animals, 58% of students responded that nursing homes are required to have a policy and 67% responded that hospitals are required to have one. Three quarters of students reported that veterinarians, animal handlers, and facilities should share the responsibility for ensuring safe human-animal interaction in AAA/AAT programs. Most (82%) of the students responded that all or most national and local therapy animal groups prohibit animals that consume raw meat diets from participating in AAA/AAT programs. The results of this survey will help veterinary schools better identify knowledge gaps that can be addressed in veterinary curricula so future veterinarians will be equipped to provide appropriate public health information regarding AAA/AAT programs.

KEYWORDS:

animal-assisted interventions; animal-assisted therapy; human–animal interaction; public health

PMID:
27415036
DOI:
10.3138/jvme.0116-021
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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