Speaker: Darlene Chalmers

The human animal bond (HAB) is a contributor to human health and well-being. The positive impact of animals on social isolation and other forms of human disparity cannot be overstated. Animals are considered family members in many households, and are also incorporated within some human service settings and practices. In fact, animal-assisted interventions (AAI) that include the use of animals in therapeutic settings are experiencing rapid growth. AAI programs are increasingly being offered in the primary health care field in Canada. Currently in Saskatchewan, dogs and horses, for example, are included in mental health counselling, addiction treatment, life skills and animal visitation programs.

This session will discuss AAIs and the interplay between humans, animals and the social environment with a view to enhancing animal and human well-being. Examples of research on the use of horses and more recently practice with dogs in addiction treatment and mental health will be shared. This will also include a focus on the welfare of animals; with attention to mitigating the possible stress experienced in therapeutic programs. The session will conclude with discussion of the potential for AAIs to contribute to integrated ways of thinking about system and service delivery in the addiction and mental health, and other similar fields.