Animals Helping Humans™

Animal-Assisted Services may help with the prevention and management of mental illness, disease, disability and suffering for people of all ages, and in many settings.

The animal-assisted services sector is made up of a range of different professionals and volunteers who work within the scope of their practice alongside animals.

These types of services are usually goal-directed programs designed to support people with intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive and psychosocial health conditions in which a specially trained animal-handler team is an integral part. Services are directed and/or delivered by a practitioner with specialized expertise within the scope of practice of his/her/their profession.

Services can take several forms and may be group or individual in nature.

Different terminology is used in the sector such as Animal-Assisted Therapy, Animal-Assisted Treatment, Animal-Assisted Education, Animal-Assisted Support Programs, Animal-Assisted Learning, Animal-Assisted Activities, Human Animal Interactions, Animal-Assisted Interventions etc.

Streamlining the sectors terminology into a simple, easy to understand framework is critical to engage funding bodies. ATL is committed to simplifying the sector’s description by focusing on the qualifications of the human and the species of animal involved in the service delivery. e.g:

Equine-Assisted Psychology, Llama-Assisted Counselling, Canine-Assisted Occupational Therapy, Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy ( the word animal is used where multiple animals are involved.)

Hippotherapy is the use of horse riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment, especially as a means of improving coordination, balance, and strength. eg: “during hippotherapy a person with cerebral palsy can benefit from trying to maintain balance in response to a horse’s motion”

Canine-assisted education ( facilitating skills development within a school environment)

Equine-assisted learning ( facilitating skills development outside of the school environment)

ATL recommends that all practitioners are transparent about the qualifications they hold, the animals they work alongside and the aims of their programs, including who their program aims to help and how the program is delivered.

Some animal handler teams hold no formal qualifications outside of their animal being assessed as safe and suitable for the work they are involved in. In this case, the service offers benefits that may be experienced through the positive interaction with an animal such as an increase in oxytocin, reduction in cortisol and welcome distraction from stressful situations.

We welcome all Animal-Assisted Practitioners who agree to abide by the ATL code of ethics and code of conduct into the national directory of service providers. This includes health professionals, educators, coaches, learning & development professionals, aged care and support workers, mental health first aiders, crisis support workers, assistance animal trainers and assessors; and visitation animal handler teams.

Assistance Animals (often dogs “AD”)

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) in Section 9, sets out the legal definition of an assistance animal as a dog or other animal that:

(a) is accredited under a State or Territory law to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of disability; or

(b) is accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed in the regulations; or

(c) is trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.

Assistance animals have a legal right to access public places and are not to be patted or distracted as they are working animals. They support people in accessing various aspects of personal and public life.  They can be trained in tasks to alert their handler of an oncoming medical episode or to assist with everyday tasks. An assistance animal must meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. Please do not ask the handler of an assistance animal about their condition.

Animal-Assisted Service Providers registered in the National Directory are expected to abide by the  ATL Code of Ethics. 

The ATL Code of Conduct provides practitioners with best practice guidelines.

If you have any questions concerning ATL’s Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct, OR if you would like to provide your thoughts and feedback concerning the Codes, please contact ATL through the email:

If you would like to report a listed service that you believe is not complying with the Codes, please contact ATL by phone 0437 89 40 61 or through the email:

However, if you have serious concerns for the welfare or wellbeing of any animal, please contact the RSPCA immediately via the website: