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New SCAS Code of Practice Launched

Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) guidelines developed to provide voluntary code to ensure animal and human welfare needs are met

Guidelines for the use of animals in a wide range of animal-assisted activities and therapies, developed by the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS), have been substantially revised and updated.

The Animal Assisted Interventions: SCAS Code of Practice for the UK (the code) is a voluntary code intended to offer guidance on good practice for designing and delivering AAI effectively and safely, to help ensure the welfare needs of both humans and animals are met.

Why do we need a Code?

Animals are increasingly being deployed in therapeutic settings due to the acknowledged benefits that arise from human-animal interactions1. There are no National Occupational Standards in place for AAI in the UK; therefore, SCAS recognised a need to provide evidence-based advice and as such developed the Code, with input from the charity’s expert membership.

The introduction of AAI programmes requires careful planning to ensure interventions are safe for all involved and that animal welfare is not compromised. The SCAS Code informs professionals, patients and the public about key steps required to achieve best practices. It encourages interdisciplinary collaboration across the caring professions in the planning, development and maintenance of programmes; and between practitioners and researchers in documenting outcomes. Through such collaboration, programmes become more effective and sustainable.

SCAS Chairman, Dr Ormerod, explains the background to the development of the guidelines:

“The experience of SCAS members, through surveys and visits to health and social care facilities, is that many programmes involve animals in an ad hoc fashion.

Animals are often introduced without seeking advice as to their suitability or welfare. Few facilities have adequate written policy or protocol, hence the need for a well-researched document to inform those working or volunteering in such facilities.”

“It is necessary to mitigate risk when using animals in AAI, both in terms of upholding animal welfare and to protect humans from any potential zoonotic diseases. The AAI SCAS Code of Conduct will help ensure all parties are working safely and fulfilling the needs of the institution and animal owners.”

The guidelines are free to access and may be downloaded from the SCAS website http://www.scas.org.uk/animal-assisted-interventions/code-of-practice/

The Code was first launched by SCAS in 2013 and has been substantially revised to reflect current understanding of AAI, particularly in relation to safe practice and animal welfare. Advice on zoonoses has been expanded to address issues pertaining to farm animals, exotic species and risks associated with raw meat products.

Who is the Code for?

The Code is for organisations, charities, businesses or individuals who design, manage, organise and implement the delivery of AAI programmes. They are also a key resource for veterinary teams whose work alongside these teams. Their services may be commissioned by others or, in some cases, those responsible for the management of an AAI programme may also be the AAI facilitator who delivers the session. The Code also serves to inform staff and clients in health, social care and educational institutions to which AAI is delivered.

SCAS Funded Project: Virtual Reality Swimming with Dolphins

SCAS Chairman, Dr Elizabeth Ormerod writes: One of the workshops at the 2018 IAHAIO conference in Amsterdam was delivered by the Dolphin Swim Club, an innovative cutting-edge programme which employs virtual reality (VR) technology. By wearing waterproof VR goggles showing underwater video footage of dolphins, people perceive that they are underwater swimming with them. This very powerful and moving experience was enjoyed by the delegates – there was a swimming pool within the conference centre! Continue reading

Purina Better with Pets Prize initiative – closing date 15 April 2018

The BetterwithPets Prize, valued at CHF 100, 000, offers a fantastic opportunity for human-animal bond programmes and projects to gain support for their work. The prize is aimed at supporting and expanding leading innovations and initiatives focused on harnessing the positive power of the pet-human bond. This is a European initiative and entry is open to applicants from any country in the European Union as well as Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Norway. Applicants will get the chance to win prizes totalling CHF 100,000 and receive feedback on their initiatives from experts in their field.  Closing date for application is 15 April. Further details can be found here.

SCAS seeking new Trustees

SCAS is seeking to appoint new Trustees to help drive its development over the next few years. SCAS’s Board of Trustees needs members with business skills, management experience and understanding of charities. Relevant professions currently not represented on the SCAS Board include social sciences, health and social care, web and digital development and medicine, including psychiatry and psychology. Trustees should ideally have relevant experience of the human-animal bond and must have an interest in this special bond and a commitment to the work of SCAS. Potential Trustees should have the drive and enthusiasm to take the charity forward.

Nominations for the Board need to be returned by the 1st March 2018. Elections will take place at the AGM on the 17th March 2018.  

Click here for further details of how to apply and the nomination form.