Therapy Animal Strike

Therapy Dog with kids

Today in #TheySaidThursday, Assistance Animals Consulting is highlighting a news story covered by Cambridge New in the United Kingdom, “Cambridge University's exam de-stress dog, Twiglet, signed off with STRESS”, The Jack Russell had a nervous reaction to going on walks with strangers. In my work as a veterinarian, I understand the health benefits of having an Animal-Assisted activity program. When humans interact with the animals in these programs, the animals have the ability to improve human health and wellness in a variety of different ways.

Therapy Animal Strike

In a brief overview, this article highlights a Jack Russell terrier dog named Twiglet that was brought to a college campus as a support dog to help students cope with work pressures. The students were allowed to take Twiglet on walks. The article indicates Twiglet started refusing to move after becoming nervous from going on walks with strangers. The article then states after recognizing Twiglet’s abnormal behavior, the college cancelled Twiglet’s walking sessions. The article also states a report in the Times indicated Twiglet had been left exhausted by dozens of students wanting a walk. Lastly, the article mentioned one student saying the dog was booked for eight consecutive hours of walks in just one day.

As a veterinarian, I am very concerned for Twiglet’s health and wellness as suggested from this news story.

  • Did Twiglet show behavior which indicated she was over stressed and overworked prior to her refusal to walk?

  • How was this animal assisted activity developed and implemented?

  • Was Twiglet allowed any work breaks?

  • Was Twiglet allowed appropriate access to water?

  • Does Twiglet have any other underlying health conditions like arthritis which could be exacerbated with increased exercise activity?

With this story I see the need for increased veterinarian involvement in this animal-assisted activity program. I also recommend better collaboration between the professional overseeing this animal-assisted activity therapy program and a veterinarian. This is a perfect example of a working animal that needs a veterinarian as its advocate.

At Assistance Animals Consulting, we are veterinarians, recognized experts uniquely qualified to serve the community by providing resources for education, behavioral understanding, and guidance regarding working animals. Our veterinarians are here to support you.

For Twiglet and Cambridge University, in collaborating with Assistance Animals Consulting we would have created a mutually beneficial Animal-Assisted Activity plan by providing the following services:

  1. Behavioral Evaluation of Twiglet prior to starting Animal-Assisted Activity Program

  2. Medical Evaluation of Twiglet prior to starting Animal-Assisted Activity program

  3. Collaborative discussion of objectives and goals for this Animal-Assisted Activity program

  4. Collaborative discussion of tasks and limitations for Twiglet while participating in this Animal-Assisted Activity program

  5. Protocol development for periodic re-evaluation and veterinary care of Twiglet during her participation in this Animal-Assisted Activity program

  6. Protocol development for any needed training for faculty, staff and students participating in Animal-Assisted Activity program

  7. Protocol development for Twiglet’s preventative veterinary care wellness while she is participating in the Animal-Assisted Activity program

  8. Evaluation and assessment of zoonotic disease risks and development of a strategy and procedure to minimize those risk

  9. Advocate for mutually beneficial interactions for both human and animal

  10. Advocate for Twiglet to ensure she sustains her health and wellness

Assistance Animals Consulting, we collaborate, evaluate, educate and advocate for successful human animal interactions. We align with the recommendations of the American Veterinary Medical Associations guidelines as standard of care for Animal-Assisted Activity programs. As veterinarians, our involvement in Animal-Assisted Activity programs is essential because we advocate for the health and welfare of the animals participating in these programs.

We want to be part of your multidisciplinary approach when using a working animal. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you to create a healthy and positive Animal-Assisted activity or therapy plan for your organization or school.

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