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Debra Buttram

Abstract: A master of science course on animal assisted activity + therapy (aaa/aat)

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Diverio S.1, Quartesan R.2, Buttram D.3*, Galimberti M.3* and Weber H.,4
1 Dipartimento di Scienze Biopatologiche e Igiene delle Produzioni Animali e Alimentari, Facoltà di Medicina Veterinaria, Via S. Costanzo 4, 06126 Perugia 075-5857642-46 silvana.diverio@unipg.it
2 Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica e Sperimentale, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia, via del Giochetto, Padiglione WW, Perugia
3 AIUCA, Via IV Novembre, 26, 23842 Bosisio Parini (LC), corresponding authour: email: aiuca@aiuca.org web: A.I.U.C.A. - Associazione Italiana Uso Cani d'Assistenza
4 Il Telaio, via Fabrianese 14, 06134 Ripa, Perugia
In our country there is an increasing number of AAA/AAT programmes implemented by private and public institutions. However, notwithstanding their high level of personal motivations, AAA/AAT professionals (therapists, planners, educators, etc.) often lack specific and focused professional expertise, and also well designed and scientific methods for assessing the efficacy of their programmes. In the attempts to fill this gap, Animal Assisted Programmes have been included as a collateral discipline in few University Masters and different private training courses are being held within the national territory. However, such a wide spectrum of offers is leading to difficulty in the recognition of corresponding professional knowledge and level of competence acquired.
As of October 2006, a dual-faculty one-year Master of Science Course in “Animal Assisted Activities and Therapies (AAA/AAT)” has been established by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at this university. In our country, it is the first public institutional course realised in the field. This MSc course is a collaborative project between the university professors, Pet Partners® team instructors and team evaluators of the Delta Society® representatve in our country and the Coordinator of Equine Rehabilation Programs of the Cooperative.
The MSc Course has been addressed to a maximum of 25 participants represented by postgraduate students and professionals of different disciplines (public health, rehabilitation, education, psychology and psychiatry, human and veterinary medicine) whose expertise is usually strictly integrated in team working on AAA/AAT programmes. Since the animal handler is a fundamental unit in such teams, a few non-graduate partecipants, who want to become animal handlers, have been allowed as auditors.
The MSc Course has been developed on a 1500 hours programme, as follows: teaching and practical training (400), training stage (240), final dissertation (260) and individual study (600), all aimed to increase specific professional areas of knowledge. It has adopted an innovative approach in involving the student’s dogs as real participants, providing opportunity to form and evaluate them and their human handler by the standards and guidlines of the Pet-Partners® Programme utilised in this country.
Upon finishing the MSc Course, the students should be able to plan, implement and assess AAA/AAT projects and to acquire the abilities to coordinate them and work in a team with scientific and professional methods. The MSc Course establishes a new standardized programme of professional training which :
- Is well recognized by public institutions, such as our provincial government which funded this first year;
- Will promote higher qualified AAA/AAT programmes, leading to greater improvement in social and public health programmes;
- Offer a higher level of functioning, safety and well-being in AAA/AAT programmes, for all involved: institutes, professional operators or therapists, clients, handlers and, last but not least, the animals.

IAHAIO 11th International Conference (Tokyo, 6-9 October 2007)

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