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International journal of environmental research and public health[electronic resource]

Understanding the Role of Therapy Dogs in Human Health Promotion.

Int J Environ Res Public Health. May 2023;20(10):.
Sonya McDowall1, Susan J Hazel2, Mia Cobb3, Anne Hamilton-Bruce4
1 School of Animal and Veterinary Science, Roseworthy Campus, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia.; 2 School of Animal and Veterinary Science, Roseworthy Campus, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia.; 3 Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia.; 4 Adelaide Medical School, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.


Dogs may provide humans with a range of physical, mental and social benefits. Whilst there is growing scientific evidence of benefits to humans, there has been less focus on the impact to canine health, welfare and ethical considerations for the dogs. The importance of animal welfare is increasingly acknowledged, indicating that the Ottawa Charter should be extended to include the welfare of non-human animals supporting the promotion of human health. Therapy dog programmes are delivered across a variety of settings including hospitals, aged care facilities and mental health services, highlighting the important role they play in human health outcomes. Research has shown that that there are biomarkers for stress in humans and other animals engaged in human-animal interactions. This review aims to assess the impact of human-animal interactions on therapy dogs engaged in providing support to human health. While challenging, it is paramount to ensure that, within the framework of One Welfare, the welfare of therapy dogs is included, as it is a key factor for future sustainability. We identified a range of concerns due to the lack of guidelines and standards to protect the wellbeing of the dogs engaged in these programmes. Extension of the Ottawa Charter to include the welfare of non-human animals with leveraging through a One Welfare approach would promote animal and human health beyond current boundaries.

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