Social Work, Animal-Assisted Therapies and Ethical Considerations: A Programme Example from Central Queensland, Australia

Nicola Taylor, Heather Fraser, T Signal, Kathy Prentice

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    13 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-152
    Number of pages18
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Volume46
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2016

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