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 who work within the scope of their practice alongside animals.

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

Treatment can take several forms and may be group or individual in nature. There are different types of animal-assisted services and it’s important to note the distinctions.

Once of the most challenging aspects of our sector is the confusion around terminology. Streamlining the terminology into a simple, easy to understand framework is critical to engage funding bodies. To address this issue, ATL is committed to simplifying the sector description to provide people with a greater understanding that the classification of services relates to the qualifications of the human involved in the service delivery.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)  is the umbrella term for services directed and/or delivered by a qualified allied health professional with education and specialized expertise within the scope of practice of his/her profession. AAT may be provided in a variety of settings, may be group or individual in nature and may be implemented for persons of any age. There are specific goals for each individual involved and the process is documented and evaluated. This includes animal-assisted occupational therapy, counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, speech therapy, social work and others.

Animal-Assisted Learning (AAL) involves an animal and a facilitator in an ‘experiential’ learning environment to assist an individual or group develop skills, tools and strategies to achieve a predetermined goal. AAL practitioners are trained in their field of expertise to facilitate specific learning outcomes. Can include corporate coaching, leadership, team building, personal development and self management.

Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) consists of specialised programs and therapeutic animal visits by a trained handler / animal team to people in workplaces, hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, universities and other institutions to alleviate stress, boost morale, contribute to wellbeing,  provide a distraction for pain management and to provide therapeutic relief. These visits are therapeutic in nature and handlers may be volunteers who do not hold any specific professional qualification. May include; courthouse dog programs, animal-assisted crisis intervention, animal-assisted mental health first aid, horsemanship services, therapeutic horse riding and others.

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: