Animals Helping Humans

By Animal Therapies Ltd

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We are building a national information portal of animal-assisted services to help those in need but we need your help.

Hello, my name is Wendy and I am the founder of Animal Therapies Ltd. I am often asked why I started an organisation dedicated to advancing the understanding, acceptance and accessibility of animal-assisted services for those suffering trauma, disability or adversity.

Well, this is my journey...

Throughout my professional career, I have held many high-profile, high pressure, senior corporate roles. Nothing ever really phased me, I had the resilience of an ox, the mental and emotional fortitude of a lion.

That is until my life changed forever ...

One morning in late 2014, I woke up and went to work like any other day but that afternoon I had no recollection of how I got home. The days, months and years that followed were a rollercoaster of severe anxiety and depression.

I lost my professional life which was intrinsically linked to my identity. My pride & privacy were torn to shreds through endless appointments. When the anxiety set in, I was rarely able to hold a conversation without stuttering.

In 2017, following my health practitioners recommendation, my dog Jack and I were accepted into an Assistance Dog program. I was shown how to use Jack to change my world for the better. My world went from grey to colour.

It took me years of research to understand how I could formally incorporate an assistance animal into my recovery. It shouldn’t have been that hard. This needed to change.

"If something positive can be born out of adversity then that's got to be a good thing.”

On 21 February 2018, Animal Therapies Ltd was incorporated and is registered as a Health Promotion Charity with the ACNC.

Your donation will mean those in need will more easily be able to find help for their condition and location.

The Challenge

The wide-reaching therapeutic benefits of animal-assisted interventions and assistance animals are now well documented, but my personal experience identified some major gaps in the sector within Australia.

Until now, there has been no national organisation advancing health, through animal-assisted interventions (AAI) and assistance animals (AA) as a whole. Nor is there a comprehensive central portal of information helping people locate a local service provider who incorporates animals into their practice.

Animal-assisted services are offered in Australia through a disparate collection of small businesses and charitable organisations committed to providing care for people by incorporating animals as a core part of therapy. The sector itself is young and growing strongly backed by a research community and dedicated practitioners.

Currently, animal-assisted service information is disjointed, fragmented and confusing for many. People searching for important information for their condition frequently access international sites that operate under different jurisdictions. They are at risk of ineffective decision making, due to inconsistent terminology and lack of understanding around the impact of the different legislative frameworks. As a result, there are many misconceptions about the different types of animal-assisted services or even how to treat an assistance animal in a public place.

Here’s what we’re doing about it

We are currently delivering education and public awareness campaigns on how animal-assisted services can help to prevent and control mental illness, disease, disability and suffering.

We need to raise funds to build, deploy and promote to the public a national register of qualified assistance animal organisations, therapeutic animal handlers and animal-assisted therapists and practitioners so people know where they can get the help they need and be reassured that they are accessing service providers that meet professional standards. The targets for fund raising have been broken into the costs for each stage of our project.

ATL is an emerging peak body (established 2018) that is bringing animal-assisted services together under the one roof. It intends to improve the performance and quality of the sector through the introduction of a common vocabulary, validation, education, and correct classification of services. In doing so, it will provide better understanding, acceptance and accessibility of high quality information and importantly, easy access to vetted local providers who can assist with their condition.

Animal-assisted services can help with the prevention and management of mental illness, disease, disability and suffering for people of all ages, and in many settings.

These programs are goal-directed programs designed to promote improvement in people with intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive and psychosocial conditions in which a specially trained animal-handler team is an integral part. AAI is directed and/or delivered by a practitioner with specialized expertise within the scope of practice of his/her profession.

Treatment can take several forms and may be group or individual in nature. There are different types of animal-assisted interventions and it’s important to note the distinctions.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) includes therapeutic and clinical services that incorporate animals into the therapeutic assessment and treatment process. AAT is delivered by qualified and registered professionals including allied health and medically trained professionals (such as counsellors, psychotherapists, social workers, mental health workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners (doctors), speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists).

AAT may incorporate specially trained animals as part of a therapeutic plan delivered and these animals. AAT can also include untrained animals if facilitated by trained therapists, for example observing animals. Health care professionals are trained to facilitate specific AAT treatment plans and measurable goals and outcomes must be documented.

AAT is designed to promote health and well being, and support improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function. AAT is provided in a variety of settings, and may be delivered in individual, couple, family, or group programs. AAT includes programs such as Animal Assisted Psychotherapy, and Hippotherapy (therapeutic riding delivered by registered physiotherapists, occupational therapists or speech therapists).

Animal-Assisted Learning (AAL) incorporates animals and a facilitator in an ‘experiential’ learning environment to assist an individual or group develop skills or strategies to better manage their personal or professional life. AAL practitioners are trained in their field of expertise to facilitate specific learning outcomes. Can include corporate coaching, leadership, team building, personal development and self management.

Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) involves trained animals and their handlers visiting people in hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, universities and other institutions to alleviate stress, depression, pain management and to provide therapeutic relief. These animals are referred to as therapeutic or visitation animals.

Assistance Animals (often dogs “AD”) are trained to perform one or more tasks to help their handler better access public life and manage their condition such as physical impairment, diabetes, eye disease, hearing and vision impairment, seizures, asthma, life threatening allergies, people who experience episodic and serious medical crises (e.g. epilepsy, changes in blood pressure or blood sugar); and people with psychosocial conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideology and other psychological conditions.

Assistance animals have a legal right to access public places and are not to be patted or distracted as they are working animals. They support people in accessing various aspects of personal and public life. They can be trained in tasks to alert their handler of an oncoming medical episode or to assist with everyday tasks. An assistance animal must meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. Please do not ask the handler of an assistance animal about their condition.

Please help us help those in need.

You can join us

Please support our fund-raising efforts by donating and sharing this page with others who can help.

Even better, become an Animal Therapies Ltd fund-raiser and help us to find the support we need.

Sponsors are welcome. Email: [email protected]

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Team Members

Wendy Coombe

Brian Zanker

Candy Gibson

Deborah Jones

Lisa Sweeney

Ric Lamont

Wendy Coombe