Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA)

The formal definition of Animal-Assisted Activities is:

"AAA provides opportunities for motivational, educational, recreational, and/or therapeutic benefits to enhance quality of life. AAA are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, and/or volunteers, in association with animals that meet specific criteria." (from Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy)

What does this really mean?
Animal-assisted activities are basically the casual "meet and greet" activities that involve pets visiting people. The same activity can be repeated with many people, unlike a therapy program that is tailored to a particular person or medical condition.

The Key Features of AAA:

  • Specific treatment goals are not planned for each visit.
  • Volunteers and treatment providers are not required to take detailed notes.
  • Visit content is spontaneous and visits last as long or as short as needed.

Examples of AAA:

  • A group of volunteers takes their dogs and cats to a nursing home once a month to "visit." The visit occurs as a large-group activity with some direction and assistance provided by facility staff. The volunteer group facilitator keeps an informal log about who was visited.
  • An individual brings her dog to a children's long-term care facility to "play" with residents. Although the staff is involved in the visits, the staff has not set treatment goals for the interactions. Aside from signing in and out, no records are kept.
  • A dog obedience club gives an obedience demonstration at a residential facility for teenagers with delinquent behavior.

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