Social work, animal-assisted therapies and ethical considerations: a programme example from Central Queensland, Australia

TAYLOR Nik, et al
Journal article citation:
British Journal of Social Work, 46(1), 2016, pp.135-152.
Oxford University Press

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, the authors argue that this needs to change. It is recognised 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), the authors consider some of the ethical and practical issues associated with animal-assisted therapies (AATs). Whether AATs can benefit both humans and animals by positively changing people's attitudes and behaviours towards animals is examined. The authors 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. (Edited publisher abstract)

Subject terms:
social work, therapies, pets, ethics, social work approaches, survivors, child sexual abuse;
Content type:
practice example
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