Animals are increasingly being used in a range of social work settings and extant research demonstrates they can offer a wide range of benefits to humans. With other professions, social work is oriented towards caring for people but does not officially recognise (non-human) animals. Given the rise in animal-related interventions and emergence of veterinary social work, we argue that this needs to change. We recognise that obstacles to change include social work's history of dichotomising (or falsely dividing) humans from animals, and focusing exclusively on human experiences of social problems (such as poverty). Using a programme example of a canine-assisted therapy project for child sexual abuse victims/survivors in Bundaberg (Central Queensland, Australia), we consider some of the ethical and practical issues associated with animal-assisted therapies (AATs). We examine whether AATs can benefit both humans and animals by positively changing people's attitudes and behaviours towards animals. We argue that the ethical legitimacy of AATs rests on their willingness to understand animals as sentient beings with needs of their own, not just possessions or tools for humans to use.