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Standards and Competencies

Standards of Practice

The Standards of Practice (SOP) have been produced by the authors under the direction of the Members and Board of Directors of Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII), to assist and encourage individuals, organizations, institutions, and health and human service providers who are interested in, or are implementing, any animal assisted intervention (AAI) program including but not limited to AAA, AAE, AAT, and AASP. Note that AAPP has a completely separate member booklet as there are several differences in all sections. AAII considers this a living document that will undergo revisions as needed to keep up with the evolving knowledge and practice of AAIs around the world.

The standards outlined in this booklet are considered a minimum of what is required to conduct different AAI programs for Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII) members. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimum standards and should also meet any standards or regulations that are required by governing bodies for their region and their home organization.

Any AAI program implementation assumes the participation of three or four equally valued parties working together in a collaborative model:

  • The participant – the human beneficiary of the service.
  • The dog handler – an individual who has training and experience in dog handling, training, and behavior.
  • AAI provider – in some cases, the healthcare/human service/therapy provider handles their own dog, or the dog handler may be a separate person.
  • The dog – an AAI team member and also a beneficiary.

Collaborative models involve work that is done with a qualified healthcare, human service, education professional, animal professional or a trained volunteer, and animal(s) in an experiential nature. In some cases, individual therapists may be active in AAT, but only as the therapy experts in a collaborative model. AAII will accredit individuals for this collaborative element of their AAT work. In some cases, organizations may be active in AAT, but only as the dog handler experts in a collaborative model. AAII will accredit programs for this collaborative element of their C-AAT work.

The first four standards are the same for any AAI program with dogs, therefore, the term Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) will be used. The categories numbered 5-9 represent different specialty member areas, and each organization selects what categories they are active in, which will dictate the additional standards they meet or exceed.

  1. Standards of Practice for the Administration of Programs
  2. Standards of Practice for the Ethical Treatment and Welfare of Participants
  3. Standards of Practice for Dog Handlers and the Support of Dogs
  4. Standards of Practice for the Health, Welfare, Wellbeing and Training of Dogs
  1. Standards of Practice for Animal Assisted Activity (AAA)
  2. Standards of Practice for Animal Assisted Education (AAE)
  3. SOP for Educator/Teacher-related Collaborative Animal Assisted Education (C-AAE)
  4. SOP for Dog Handler-related Collaborative Animal Assisted Education (C-AAE)
  5. Standards of Practice for Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
  6. SOP for Therapy/Healthcare Provider-related Collaborative Animal Assisted Therapy (C-AAT)
  7. SOP for Dog Handler-related Collaborative Animal Assisted Therapy (C-AAT)
  8. Standards of Practice for Special Programs (AASP)
  9. Standards of Practice for Placement Programs (AAPP) – Has an completely separate Standards and Competencies Member Booklet as there are several subtle differences in all areas.


AAII members come from a variety of backgrounds and the scope of each member’s work may have differences in theory and practice from others. AAII recognizes that there may be people with different expectations and skill sets from volunteer visiting through expert instructors of any given member category (AAA, AAE, AAT, AASP, or AAPP).

In collaboration with Dr. Leslie A. Stewart, PhD., LCPC, AAII adopted and expanded (indicated in green font) a competency model to better reflect AAII Standards of Practice for each member category. It is important to note that competencies are NOT meant to be used as a checklist in which arbitrary completion indicates that one is qualified. The competencies are meant to be used as a guide for ongoing, lifelong learning for theory, practice and research in any and all areas of which one participates in or practices AAIs.

Secondary to the broad nature of our membership and the roles that people and animals fulfil, Stewart’s competencies have been rearranged from the original three levels to four levels. AAII has outlined 4 tiers of competencies within each member category (AAA, AAE, AAT, AASP, or AAPP) that correspond to each standard. Competency tiers include entry, intermediate, advanced and expert levels.