Animals that are to participate in AAI must be selected according to the purpose, be healthy, safe, and meet the criteria for risk management. The animals selected must have the right suitability, have an appropriate size and age, and must demonstrate the necessary skills to work with all types of participants.
It is important that the animals are assessed by objective eyes and by
a professional educated in animal behavior. Many environments and situations within AAI can be stressful for the animals, in relation to loud abrupt noises, unpredictable environment and people and it is not always as easy to see if the animals are unhappy in the situations. Signs of negative stress can be subtle or even similar to other behaviors that we perceive as positive.
Benefits of suitability assessment
The big advantage of testing the animals is that we can understand them better and find user groups and environments that best suit the animal. No animal fits everything, but they all have their individual characteristics that make them better suited to one or more areas. This makes it easier for the animals to get a safe environment, but also makes it easier and safer for us to create interventions that are adapted to both the user and the animal. In this way, we also get to utilize the animal's characteristics in the best possible way.
We are not looking for obedience
How obedient or well-behaved an animal is will not determine if it will do well on a suitability assessment. What we are looking for are signs of fear, aggression, sociability, evasive behaviors etc. If the animal is mentally safe, but have some unwanted behaviors, then these are usually behaviors one improve through training.
Suitability assessments preformed by ethologists together with a licenced trainer is the best way to ensure an animals welfare. To have the most accurate assessment we need a professional with a university education in animal behavior.
The assessments are also to ensure the safety of our clients. We have to know that an animal will not act out agressivly if a frightning or painful situation occurs.