Marika Lotko (Rīga Stradiņš University)

(Latvia )

Topic: Integration of Human-Animal Interaction in The Profession: Dog-Assisted Therapy as A Resource for Social Workers
  • English


It has been known for some decades that animals bring various benefits for humans. There are several disciplines which focus on animal-assisted interventions (AAI): 1) one of human animal study directions is focused on animal-assisted therapy; 2) Green Care concept refers to numerous treatment programmes in the natural surroundings pointing out human’s interconnectedness with nature and health. Within a Green Care concept animal-assisted therapy is one of the green care programmes alongside such programmes as Social & Therapeutic Horticulture, Green Exercise, etc. 3) Veterinary Social Work. The primary focus of these disciplines is based on the idea of positive outcomes from human interaction with animals, which allows social workers to develop their practice concentrated not only from interaction with humans but non-human animals as well.
There are pros and cons outcoming from the diversity of aforementioned disciplines. Based on the region these practices are developed, scope of knowledge will define the frame, aim, objectives and outcomes of the practice.
Status of dog-assisted therapy (DAT) in Latvia, where dogs is one of species integrated in AAI, is not clearly defined, however this is a service that gained its popularity and increased demand by the implementation of the deinstitutionalization process. DAT alongside a broad scope of other therapy services is one of social workers resources in work with people with different disorders.
Several interpretations in relation to the status of DAT were identified: DAT as a community-based service; part of social rehabilitation; as well as social service. This represents differences in interpretation of status of DAT which impacts its aims and objectives, as well as outcomes.
The aim of the research where 23 semi-structured interviews providers of DAT were conducted on their vision on DAT as part of the social rehabilitation process. Although respondents admitted that DAT should be seen as a part of the social rehabilitation process only in a few cases they were included as a part of multiprofessional teams and participated in the process of intervention.