Other end of the leash: the volunteer handler's perspective of animal-assisted interventions

Carberry, Julie Ann (2022) Other end of the leash: the volunteer handler's perspective of animal-assisted interventions. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The overarching field of Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI), colloquially known as “animal therapy,” has a limited research foundation. Despite the volunteer animal handlers’ integral role in facilitating most AAIs, the field especially lacks literature considering their perspective. Scholars have included the perspective of professionals that implement AAIs, clients that receive AAIs, staff working in facilities that implement AAIs, and even the therapy animal’s perspective. However, the volunteer handler’s voice remains unheard. I explored the lived experiences of handlers volunteering in a Canine-Assisted Activity (CAA). I interviewed 14 participants following a semi-structured interview guide, then visited a facility alongside them, observing their interactions with clients in the field. I selected an interpretive phenomenological approach to integrate my own personal background with animals. Combining participants’ knowledge with mine, I identified four emerging themes from my interviews with handlers about their experiences: (a) a win-win-win scenario for all parties involved, (b) volunteering is worthwhile despite some drawbacks, (c) differing roles on opposite ends of the leash, and (d) facility staff and clients’ families also benefit. I also summarize feedback on their program and mention outlying data. AAI organizations and future studies may gain from a better understanding of this perspective.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/15751
Item ID: 15751
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 107-122)
Keywords: animal-assisted activity, animal-assisted intervention, canine-assisted activity, canine-assisted intervention, volunteer handler, perspective
Department(s): Medicine, Faculty of
Date: October 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.48336/568S-3G43
Medical Subject Heading: Animal Assisted Therapy

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