All of CAAWLS’ programs are made possible by our volunteer teams. Teams are typically made up of one animal and one human who take time out of their day to make regularly scheduled visits. Many of our programs have been running for years, and so it’s common for our human volunteers (and our animal ones too!) to develop a bond with clients. While our focus is on the benefits of animal interaction, it’s important to note the significant role that our volunteers play in the overall experience for our clients.

CAAWLS programming consists of three types of human-animal interaction that all fall under the overarching category of Animal-Assisted Interaction (AAI). Definitions and explanations of AAI and the three types of human-animal interaction involved in CAAWLS’ programming are as follows:

Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI)

An Animal Assisted Intervention is a goal-oriented intervention that intentionally includes or incorporates animals in health, education and human service (e.g., social work) for the purpose of therapeutic gains in humans. Animal assisted interventions incorporate human-animal teams in formal human service such as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Animal Assisted Education (AAE).

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Animal Assisted Therapy is a goal oriented, planned and structured therapeutic intervention directed and/or delivered by health, education and human service professionals. Intervention progress is measured and included in professional documentation. AAT is delivered and/or directed by a formally trained (with active licensure, degree or equivalent) professional with expertise within the scope of the professionals’ practice. AAT focuses on enhancing physical, cognitive, behavioural and/or socio-emotional functioning of the particular human client.

Animal Assisted Education

Animal Assisted Education (AAE) is a goal-oriented, planned and structured intervention directed and/or delivered by educational and related service professional. AAE is conducted by qualified (with degree) general and special education teachers. Regular education teachers who conduct AAE must have knowledge of the animals involved. An example of AAE delivered by a regular education teacher is an educational visit that promotes responsible pet ownership. AAE, when done by special (remedial) education teachers is also considered a therapeutic and goal-oriented intervention. The focus of the activities is on academic goals, pro-social skills and cognitive functioning. The student’s progress is measured and documented. An example of AAE delivered by a special education teacher is a dog-assisted reading program.

 Animal Assisted Activity (AAA)

AAAs are informal interactions/visitations often conducted on a volunteer basis by the human-animal team for motivational, educational and recreational purposes. There are no treatment goals for the interactions. AAAs are generally facilitated by individuals who do not have a health, education or human service degrees. Human-animal teams have received at least introductory training, preparation and assessment to participate in informal visitations. Human-animal teams who provide AAA may also work formally and directly with a healthcare, educator and/or human service provider on specific documentable goals. In this case they are participating in AAT or AAE that is conducted by a specialist in his/her profession. Examples of AAA include animal assisted crisis response that focuses on providing comfort and support for trauma, crisis and disaster survivors, and visiting companion animals for ‘meet and greet’ activities with residents in nursing homes.


The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum

Guided by the research on resiliency, social and emotional learning, and human-animal interaction, the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum includes lesson plans and strategies to actively engage students and promote social and emotional competence, academic achievement, and awareness of the needs of shelter pets, also known as Mutt-i-grees.



If you are interested in implementing a CAAWLS program at your school, place of work, or somewhere else you know will benefit from AAI, please get in touch with us!


*These definitions were written with the help of the White Paper produced by The International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO):Jegatheesan, B., Dr, Beetz, A., Dr, Choi, G., Dudzik, C., Fine, A., Dr, Garcia, R. M., Dr, Yamazaki, K. (n.d.). The IAHAIO definitions for animal assisted intervention and animal assisted activity and guidelines for wellness of animals involved: Final report.