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Animal-Assisted Interventions

Online Module

This module aims to prepare social work practitioners for the unique conceptual, clinical and ethical challenges related to animal-assisted interventions (AAI). Through course readings, instructor-guided lessons, and online webinars, this module introduces trainees to practical approaches for strengthening planning and delivery strategies for evidence-based treatments incorporating animals.

Module Goals:

1.) To integrate knowledge and theory about animal assisted interventions in the context of social work with vulnerable groups.
2.) To evaluate the existing evidence regarding human-animal interactions.
3.) To understand methods, standards, and guideline of incorporating animals into social work practice.
4.) To demonstrate the integration of theory and practice through written and oral skills.
5.) To apply ethical standards and principles necessary to incorporate animals into social work practice in different settings.

Required text:

Fine, A. H. (Ed.). (2015). Handbook on Animal-assisted Therapy: Foundations and Guidelines for Animal assisted Interventions. Academic Press. Fourth Edition.

This text book will need to be purchased or rented in order to complete the course. You may be able to find the book for free at your local library. If you are a recent graduate or faculty/staff at a university, the textbook may be available through the university library.

This program is Approved by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval # 886617824-4160) for 21.5 continuing education contact hours.

Registration for this module is available in September annually. To receive updates and reminders about this module, email vswcp@utk.edu.


Module Presenters

Dr. Zenithson (Zenny) Ng

Zenithson (Zenny) Ng is a clinical assistant professor of Community Practice at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.  He received his undergraduate degree in animal science from Rutgers University and veterinary degree from Cornell University.  He completed a small animal rotating internship at the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA in New York City before entering a combined ABVP (canine/feline) residency and master’s degree in human-animal bond studies program at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.  It was through this unique program that he was able to enhance his medical and surgical skills while developing expertise in human-animal relationships.  Specifically, he published research investigating the effects of animal-assisted interventions on the behavior and physiology of the animals themselves.  In addition to his role in teaching veterinary students, he is the veterinary advisor for the Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) program, the animal-assisted intervention program of the University of Tennessee, which is comprised of over 500 volunteers at facilities throughout east Tennessee.  He has been actively engaged in animal-assisted interventions with his own golden retriever, Grace.  Zenny’s clinical interests include behavior, dentistry, preventive medicine, and management of gastrointestinal and renal disease.  His research interests include the effect of animal-assisted interventions on both humans and animals and is currently investigating the effect of the presence of a dog on anxiety and dose of anesthesia in children with cancer


Aviva Vincent

Aviva Vincent is a  doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University in the Mandel School of Applied Social Science and a Fellow at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention, Research, and Education. She earned her MSW from the University of Connecticut School in Community Organizing focusing on international issues and urban development with a focus on youth’s rights to access quality education. At the University of Connecticut, she developed the first Equine Facilitated Therapy field placement with Ebony Horsewomen in Hartford.  Her research interests include exploring the biological impact animals have on humans, program implantation, fidelity, and evaluation. Aviva is an avid advocate for the inclusion of human-­animal interaction within social work practice and curricula. She is a certified provider for animal-­assisted interventions with Path International and Therapy Dogs International. Currently, Aviva volunteers with her dog, Shaina, through Therapy Dogs International at Breakthrough Village Preparatory school in Ohio City, Campus Canines, and other local initiatives.


Face-to-Face Workshop

Our next Animal Assisted Interventions workshop will be held in Knoxville, March 10-11th, 2018.

Prerequisites: Completion of the AAI Online module and supervision.

To be the first to receive registration information, join our email list. 

Please email any questions to vswcp@utk.edu or call (865) 696-1117.

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