Unlike other caregiving disciplines such as occupational therapy, recreational therapy or social work, the field of animal-assisted therapy and activities is not a profession requiring licensure. No national credentialing organizations provide official certification or accreditation, nor are there any state licensing regulations. While it is possible for anyone with a pet to call themselves an “animal therapist” and make visits to people who would appreciate a friendly furry visitor, it is unwise and potentially hazardous to undertake AAT/AAA without prior training. Many facilities require AAT/AAA handlers and animals to have training, registration, and insurance coverage. Not only must the animal be registered and demonstrate that it has a suitable temperament for this work, but the handler must have the right personality, expectations and skills as well. And at all times the welfare of everyone involved – animals, clients, patients, visitors, staff, volunteers, handlers – must be ensured.
The courses described here provide basic training as an introduction to the opportunities and responsibilities in conducting effective animal-based interventions. They offer a Certificate of Completion and continuing education credits – not a professional “Certification.” The Certificate is all that is generally required at this time.
HARCUM COLLEGE DISTANCE-LEARNING CERTIFICATE COURSE
This 10-week online course, offered three times a year since 2005, introduces multi-disciplinary professionals, volunteers, and those wishing to enter the field to key concepts in human-animal interactions, types of AAT/AAA programs, criteria for safe and effective interventions, and techniques for visiting and organizing a program. Online research and interactions with fellow students and the instructor are supplemented with site visits to see local programs in action. Click here for more information.
CAMDEN COUNTY COLLEGE CERTIFICATE COURSE
This 10-week course has been offered since 1996 on Saturday mornings each Spring at the Blackwood, N.J. campus on the outskirts of Philadelphia. World-class lecturers and field trips to observe animal therapy programs in action provide students a Continuing Education experience to further their professional and personal development, build a local support network, and explore the wonderful world of animal-assisted therapy and activities. Click here for more information.
The Animals and Society Institute maintains an extensive list of courses in many disciplines of Human-Animal Studies, including animal-assisted therapy, psychology, sociology, social work and counseling, and many more.