We are a non-profit organization supporting Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs)

Binder, A. J., Parish-Plass, N., Kirby, M., Winkle, M., Skwerer, D. P., Ackerman, L., … & Wijnen, B. (2024). Recommendations for uniform terminology in animal-assisted services (AAS). Human-Animal Interactions12(1).


“Through the years, the range of services involving animals benefiting people, often described as “animal-assisted interventions” (AAIs), has been plagued with confusing and inconsistent taxonomy, terminology, and definitions. This has caused difficulties for the delineation of roles of service providers, for the recipients of services, as well as for the preparation, training, and expectations of the animals that work in different roles. It can be argued that these difficulties have compromised the development of the field in terms of establishing agreed standards of practice, qualifications, and competencies and adopting good animal welfare practices. It has also likely limited the base of evidence, as search terms used to access studies are not consistent, and study protocols are difficult to compare, lacking uniformity in terminology. Additionally, the current terminology cannot accommodate the expansion and diversification of programs in recent years, which is likely to continue as the field evolves. Establishing internationally agreed upon uniform taxonomy, terminology, and definitions is crucial to more accurately reflect the key features of different approaches, to define the scope and competencies for different service providers and their animals, to provide transparency about services for recipients, and to ensure the appropriate preparation, training, and support of the animals that work with them.
The recommendations in this article are the result of an international work group that convened over the course of two years. The umbrella term animal-assisted services (AAS) is proposed, defined as services that are facilitated, guided or mediated by a health or human service provider or educator, who works with and maintains the welfare of a specially alongside a specially qualifying animal to provide therapeutic, educational, supportive and/or ameliorative processes aimed at enhancing the well-being of humans. AAS are further categorized into three main areas: treatment, education, and support programs. A recommendation for provider-specific terminology is also suggested. The aim of these proposals is to set clear expectations and boundaries for each specialty of practice, without compromising the richness and diversity of each approach. The adoption of this new umbrella term and its categories is intended to improve clarity for all involved in the receipt and delivery of services, as well as for those who study their effects” (Binder et al., 2024).

Dear friends and colleagues,


Happy New Year! I have had the pleasure of being a co-founder of Animal Assisted Intervention International and the first and only chair/president in our 10 years. Our board of directors is amongst the best I have ever worked with, always professional, friendly, and open minded. I am so proud to have chaired a board in which people from around the world all got along and worked tirelessly to grow this incredible organization. When people ask what it is like working with this group, I always say that we all play well with others. As AAII grew and formed professional and friendly relationships with other organizations, I realized how very true my statement has been. One of our goals was to create collaborations with other well-respected organizations in the field. We have developed some great relationships and done impressive collaborative work. Shouldn’t that be the goal for all organizations? We have so much to learn from each other, and so much to share.


Another of our goals was to ensure that our organization was member driven. When AAII began, we wanted to fill a gap for the practitioner side of AAIs, to include dog trainers and advocates to ensure that practices were ethical, considered welfare for both humans and dogs, and created processes to guide practices.  We created working groups with our members to develop standards, competencies and an accreditation that met needs internationally. We asked leadership from other organizations to review our work and we received excellent feedback. It is all a reflection of you, our trusted members and advocates of animals. We still have a lot that we want to accomplish, and look forward to ongoing collaboration with our members, our colleagues from other organizations, and from practitioners from several related fields around the world.


As we move forward to our 11th anniversary on the 7th of February (2013), I will be stepping aside into the vice-chair/president position. We feel fortunate that Selina Gibsone will be taking the reins as the Chair of AAII. We have worked together in AAII since before AAII was an official organization. She has extensive education and experience as both a healthcare provider and a dog trainer. She is diplomatic, adventurous, takes only calculated risks, and is one of the best listeners and contemplators I have had the pleasure of working with.  I am confident that Selina will continue to steer our organization in the direction of stability and growth and continue to play well with others. The past decade has brought incredible satisfaction to my career, and I am so grateful that all of you contributed to make that happen.  Let’s bring in 2024 with a new energy, please help me welcome Selina Gibsone!




Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA

Vice-chair, AAII



I am delighted to be taking on the position of chair of AAII, I have been involved since the inception of the organization and I look forward to navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the leadership Melissa has provided for AAII, it simply would not have got to where it has without her. Melissa’s dedication and hard work have meant AAII has become a great organization and I am truly honored to follow in her footsteps.  As I step into the role of chair, I am keenly aware of the high standard set by Melissa and I am committed to upholding the values and principles that she has championed. I feel grateful that Melissa and the rest of the board will be alongside me as I embark on this new chapter.  

Selina Gibsone 

Chair, AAII

AAII celebrates our official legal 9th anniversary on February 7th!

We invite you to celebrate with us by posting brief commentaries about your favorite things within your own day to day AAIs & we want to see your dogs between now and February 15th! Don’t forget to say Happy Birthday to AAII!  https://www.facebook.com/groups/288639221245400


While the past two years have required us to distance, in many ways we are closer than ever. At this point in time, we have so many shared experiences, so many stories of change and of loss.  But if we can take a step back to reflect on other things the pandemic has brought, we can begin to heal, gain strength, and move forward.  We have become resilient and adaptable, flexible and more creative. Many AAI programs seemed to come to a sudden halt, but that brought time for reflection and reorganization for the next chapter.  We have all learned so much over the past two years.


So many speakers in AAIs and dog training delivered incredible workshops and strategies that made us better handlers and caregivers to our animals, and better practitioners in our specialty areas. We learned new online platforms, and suddenly all of our worlds came together again as we shared the same classrooms, experiences, wisdom, and exchanged ideas with just one click! We also cultivated new relationships.


AAII has been working with the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO) on several short and long term professional development projects, together we have fostered additional collaborations with several other international organizations specializing in AAIs. We are all coming together to professionalize AAIs at an international level, representing different regions, disciplines and organizations. Our world-wide collaboration on social media is called The International Consortium for Animal Assisted Interventions (IC-AAI).  We anticipate exploration of several professional issues, and hope you will consider being a part of the discussion.


The Board of Directors and working group members found themselves dedicating a lot of time and energy fine-tuning Standards, Competencies and modifying accreditation to better fit the outcomes of a world pandemic. After years of reviewing literature, public visionary meetings and working groups, we believe we have developed the most complete standards. Then, with your help, and with a solid foundation from Dr. Leslie Stewart, we built competencies that are meant to guide our members in offering the most ethical and knowledgeable practices. Those two official documents made it possible to build a peer reviewed accreditation process. AAII now offers 3 different accreditations tracks: By portfolio, virtually and in-person. As of January 2022, we have successfully accredited 4 of our ‘test’ member organizations (2 in the US and 2 in Europe), each having gone through all 3 accreditation tracks. We will release the official application for accreditation soon in a member forum.


Our 2021 non-traditional virtual conference was well-received with speakers offering our members additional free or discounted coursework. Our video library of webinars and conference sessions will soon be available. Finally, we now host AAII Thursdays at 11:00 am (US- Eastern Time), 16:00 (UK GMT) as follows. Please check social media to see if something is scheduled.



We invite our members to submit webinars or workshops just like you would for conference. They will be live and recorded so we may offer consistent continuing education to our members. We will likely have a virtual conference for 2022 between September and December- we will make announcements soon. Contact Phoebe for inquiries at coordinator@aai-int.org.


Cheers to all of you for a healthier and happier 2022!

Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA

AAII Co-founder and President

Griz & Gertie Photo Credit Winkle.

February 7th, 2020 marked our 7th year anniversary as a legal entity. The state of the pandemic crisis around the world leaves us with heavy hearts for all the fear, uncertainty, illness and losses that are now all too commonplace. With the current crisis, AAII announces that our Annual Conference in Zagreb, Croatia (September/October 2020) has been cancelled. We are not rescheduling at this time, but will be investigating other online options for continuing education. If you have extensive knowledge in this area, please contact me personally at melissa@dogwoodtherapy.com I saw a social media post today that said something to the effect of.

We don’t need to socially distance, we need to physically distance.
Let’s socially come together and support each other.

You are all very important to us, and to each other. AAII reminds you to take care of yourselves and take care of each other, family, friends, neighbors and those who are vulnerable. You can do this by avoiding spreading the virus. Stay home, use your voice and talk to others on the phone, write more, read more, play training games with your dog’s more, take this time to increase your own knowledge and perhaps the knowledge of others. Many people are doing short, fun and informational videos for AAA, AAT, AAE and AS areas. If you are so inclined make a video and send us a link. You can post your videos on You Tube, for example, and it will give you a link to share. We are happy to post it in the AAII Members Only Facebook Group. Share activities, training tips, program development, a presentation you have done in the past, or anything related to AAIs. If you are not a member of the AAII Members Only Facebook group, just look us up, and send us a message with your current membership number. Let’s create some social support for each other and create opportunities to grow and find some happiness during this difficult time. We are all in this together. We all send you our thoughts, prayers and positive energy to stay safe and healthy.

Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA
President, Animal Assisted Intervention International

February 7th, 2019 marked our 6th year anniversary as a legal entity. Things have certainly changed since the establishment of AAII. In 2018 and early 2019, we exceeded our goals for growth and development! Our committed working group members continued to support AAII by strengthening our Standards of Practice, finalizing Recommended Competencies, developing the requested Raw Diet Policy, development of short power points for use by our members during presentations about AAII, our accreditation process has been modified, and we are in the planning stages for the 2019 AAII Annual Conference in Italy!

The Standards of Practice now have cited literature that prompted the documents development, we were successfully able to address what has been historically lacking in AAIs. Our working groups have completed citation support for Section 1: The Standards of Practice for the Health, Welfare and Well-being of Dogs and for Section 3: Standards of Practice for the Ethical Treatment and Welfare of Participants. These two sections impact every member of AAII and it is reassuring that we are on the right path in this journey.

During the 2018 AAII Conference we were honored to have Dr. Leslie Stewart as a guest in our competencies working group, and it resulted in AAII modifying and adopting the standards she had recently published. Another working group initiated the Raw Diet Policy. Finally, we initiated a working group for the development of tiered Competencies for Dog Handlers, Trainers and Instructors. We look forward to prioritizing this working group the remainder of 2019. If you are interested in contributing to this working group, please contact AAII.

We are most excited about unveiling the Accreditation Process! This project was initiated in 2014 at the Denver Visionary Meeting and has been in progress since then. Whether you participated in one meeting or stayed with us through the 5 years of drafts and ongoing working groups, we could not have produced this without you. Thank you to all who committed their time, energy and expertise to building AAII. We have a lot to show for the fruits of your labor.

Finally, we announce our 2019 AAII Annual Conference at the beautiful Villa Arvedi in the village of Grezzana, near Verona, Italy. This is not a conventional business conference setting. It is outside of any major city limits, is very historical and boasts peaceful gardens for reflection of all we will learn. Please take time to enjoy the link that we have provided. You will not want to miss this conference. We will soon post more information for airports and several quaint private hotel choices with special conference rates.

Following the release of the Standards, Recommended Competencies and the Accreditation process our 2019 conference theme is Professionalizing the Practice of AAIs. There is an art and a science to AAIs and we are calling for presenters who will address professional issues, responsibilities and literature that will ensure the quality of this rapidly growing work. Watch the website and your email for the official Call for Presenters and conference details as they come in.

Thank you for your support in building AAII and our benchmarks for excellence in the animal assisted intervention realm. I look forward to seeing you in Italy, October 15th and 16th, 2019.

Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA

President, Animal Assisted Intervention International

February 7th marks our 5th year anniversary as a legal entity. 2017 was an incredibly fruitful year for AAII’s growth! Many of you attended the 2017 AAII Conference in Vienna, and contributed to the working groups for standards, the accreditation process, and the guidance notes.

After two of our United States member organizations gave the accreditation process a trial, we realized there was some clarifications and adjustments to be made. Our board member working group is now in the final phase of revisions, so our USA test members can try it again. Once we successfully complete our accreditation documents, then we will be ready for the on-site visit portion of accreditation. This is big news around the world as there are very few international governing bodies that are represented, developed by and agreed upon by so many member countries.

YOU, our members, make this all possible and worthwhile! YOU make a difference in the lives of students, patients, clients, healthcare and human service providers, and the dogs who serve them all. YOU have driven this process from our infancy until now. And we will continue to be a member driven organization that is dedicated to the practice of all types of animal assisted interventions. We take great pride that our members help develop our structure.

We look forward to the new year as our 2018 AAII Conference will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA on August 16th (Member Development Meeting), with the actual conference being on the 17th & 18th. Our conference will be just before the Assistance Dogs International Conference, August 19th-23rd, also in Minneapolis. One of AAII’s Affiliate Members, Pet Partners, will also be inviting organizations from outside the US to become evaluators for their incredible volunteer visiting organization on the 19th as they expand to offer Pet Partners internationally. A lot of teaching and learning opportunities will be happening in Minnesota in August 2018! We will send out a call for presenters in the next few weeks.

Thank you for all for your input, your membership, and your passion in further developing and strengthening animal assisted interventions around the globe. Cheers to the new year at AAII, may we all stand united and strong! I can’t wait to see what the new year brings, and to see you at the conference! Happy 5th Anniversary AAII!

Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA

Welcome to another productive year with Animal Assisted Intervention International!

It has been 9 years since a group in Europe began collaborating with a group in the US to build AAII. Our sister organization, Assistance Dogs International has been by our side along the way to offer mentorship, collaboration, and to share conferences. Our conferences in Belgium and the U.S. were well attended, and the networking was phenomenal. AAII Standards of Practice are being adopted all over the world, and our collaborative projects continue to gain momentum. Last year, we hosted a member development meeting in Croatia and began work on an accreditation system. The framework has been built and we are currently developing the process. Thank you to all who participated via Spa & US conferences, Croatia development meeting, by phone, skype and email. We are proud that the system is produced in conjunction with members, and remain respectful that each of our regions make have subtle differences.

Over the past year, our membership base has grown to include organizations and individuals from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, North and South America. What a small world it is, indeed. As President of AAII, I am most proud that we are gaining international reference in articles, journals, and scholar projects. While AAI’s have been in existence for quite some time, it is now becoming a respected area of practices in a variety of disciplines. This year, I am personally being honored with Fellow from the American Occupational Therapy Association specifically for my contributions to animal assisted interventions. This is directly related to all of the work we have done within AAII. So, while the scholarly award has my name on it, I believe it represents OUR work as an organization, and I share it with all of you who have made AAII what it is today.

The next year proves to be very fruitful for AAII.  The 2016 AAII conference “Building a Voice for the Future” is May 14th and 15th, in the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic. In addition, our working groups will begin working on the individual sections of the accreditation process, which will surely take animal assisted intervention to a new level. The implications will ensure best practices for practitioners, handlers, trainers, dogs, and clients! It is quite an advancement for the field. Thank you for your contributions to this process.

Don’t forget to visit the new website aai-int.org and share it with your colleagues! We also have new contact emails. If you don’t hear from us within 7 days of your request, please check in again. We are still in the midst of big server changes. We will release more specific email addresses as they become active.

President – Melissa Winkle

Secretary – Elma Burg-  ElmaBurg@aai-int.org
Office: Friday 11:00-16:00 CET (every even week)