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Defining Terms Used for Animals Working in Support Roles for People with Support Needs

One of our international experts Dr. Christine Olsen has been co-author of this significant paper together with the world's best experts in this field. A big thanks to Tiffani Howell for organizing this wonderful project 🤩🤩🤩

Simple Summary

Although animals are being employed for a growing number of roles to support people, the terms used to describe those animals (e.g., “therapy animal” and “emotional support animal”) can be confusing. The same term may be used to describe different types of work, or the same role can be described with different terms. This paper presents the results of a collaboration between over 100 researchers, practitioners, and end users of animal-based supports from all over the world. We created working definitions for the following nine terms: “assistance animal”, “companion animal”, “educational/school support animal”, “emotional support animal”, “facility animal”, “service animal”, “skilled companion animal”, “therapy animal”, and “visiting/visitation animal”. In this paper, we describe the defining characteristics of each animal type and how it is different from the other types. We recommend phasing out the terms “skilled companion animal” and “service animal”, because they are similar to other terms. We discuss how our definitions may be received in different parts of the world.


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