The Impact of Animal-Assisted Intervention on Staff in a Seniors Residential Care Facility

  • Julie Casey
  • Rick CsiernikEmail author
  • David Knezevic
  • Joanne Ebear
Original Article


As with any protocol involving both humans and animals, there were inherent risks with this research. These risks were minimized through the participant screening process which assessed for animal allergies and fears for particular animal species. Participants were selected for their interest in animals which reduced the risk for the participant to experience stress during the intervention. Interaction with animals poses a risk of zoonoses. Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals. To minimize this risk, all therapy animals were under veterinary care, were thoroughly groomed, and were regularly vaccinated and dewormed. Hand hygiene policies were followed. The therapy animals’ hand-rearing and socialization minimized the risk of physical injury by the animal. The therapy animals used in this study were sheep, rabbits, chickens, and a goat. These animals are considered safe and have previously worked with other residents living in long-term care homes with no previous incidents. To ensure the safety of the therapy animals, the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations Animal Welfare Guidelines were followed for ethical human-animal practices and to protect the animals’ well-being. When working with therapy animals, animal welfare is critical since the animal is vulnerable and dependent on the therapist for their protection and well-being. The use of the Boat Inventory on Animal-Related Experiences (BIARE) reduces the risk of potential harm to the therapy animal. Additionally, the Guidelines for Wellness of Animals Involved, created by the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), was utilized throughout the study to further ensure the wellbeing of the therapy animals.


Animal-assisted intervention Farm animals Stress Mental health Workplace wellness Dementia Canada 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Julie Casey had NO relationship, financial or otherwise, with individuals or organizations that could influence the author’s work inappropriately, a conflict of interest may exist.

Rick Csiernik had NO relationship, financial or otherwise, with individuals or organizations that could influence the author’s work inappropriately, a conflict of interest may exist.

David Knezevic had NO relationship, financial or otherwise, with individuals or organizations that could influence the author’s work inappropriately, a conflict of interest may exist.

Joanne Ebear had NO relationship, financial or otherwise, with individuals or organizations that could influence the author’s work inappropriately, a conflict of interest may exist.


  1. Acker, G. M. (2011). Burnout among mental health care providers. Journal of Social Work, 12(5), 475–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akerstedt, T., & Wright, K. (2009). Sleep loss and fatigue in shift work and shift work disorder. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 4(2), 257–271.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alzheimer Society Canada (2016). Understanding behaviours. Retrieved from;
  4. Beetz, A., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interactions: the possible role of oxytocin. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 234.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernabei, V., De Ronchi, D., La Ferla, T., Moretti, F., Tonelli, L., Ferrari, B., Forlani, M., & Atti, A. (2013). Animal-assisted interventions for elderly patients affected by dementia or psychiatric disorders: a review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47(6), 762–773.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boat, B. (1994). Boat inventory on animal-related experiences. Cincinnati: University of Cincinnati, Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  7. Bride, B. E., Robinson, M. M., Yegidis, B., & Figley, C. R. (2004). Development and validation of the secondary traumatic stress scale. Research on Social Work Practice, 1(1), 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brodaty, H., Draper, B., & Low, L. F. (2003). Nursing home staff attitudes towards residents with dementia: strain and satisfaction with work. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 44(6), 583–590.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buchanan, M., Anderson, J. O., Uhlemann, M. R., & Horwitz, E. (2006). Secondary traumatic stress: an investigation of Canadian mental health workers. Traumatology, 12(4), 272–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chandler, C. K. (2005). Animal assisted intervention in counseling. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Cipriani, G., Lucetti, C., Carlesi, C., Danti, S., & Nuti, A. (2015). Sundown syndrome and dementia. European Geriatric Medicine, 6(4), 375–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Csiernik, R. (2014). Workplace wellness: issues and responses. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.Google Scholar
  13. Csiernik, R., & Birnbaum, R. (2017). Practicing social work research: case studies for learning (2nd ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  14. Culpepper, L. (2010). The social and economic burden of shift-work disorder. The Journal of Family Practice, 59(1), S3–S11.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Devilly, G. J., Wright, R., & Varker, T. (2009). Vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress or simply burnout? Effect of trauma therapy on mental health professionals. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 43(4), 373–385.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dill, K. (2007). Impact of stressors on front-line child welfare supervisors. The Clinical Supervisor, 26(1/2), 177–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Edberg, A., Bird, M., Richards, D., Woods, R., Keeley, P., & Davis-Quarrell, V. (2008). Strain in nursing care of people with dementia: nurses’ experience in Australia, Sweden and United Kingdom. Aging and Mental Health, 12(2), 236–243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Engelman, S. (2013). Palliative care and use of animal-assisted therapy. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 67(1–2), 63–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion fatigue: coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  20. Figley, C. R. (1996). Review of the compassion fatigue self-test. In B. H. Stamm (Ed.), Measurement of stress, trauma, and adaptation. Baltimore: Sidran Press.Google Scholar
  21. Figley, C. R. (2002a). Compassion fatigue: psychotherapists’ chronic lack of self-care. Psychotherapy. in Practice, 58(11), 1433–1441.Google Scholar
  22. Figley, C. R. (2002b). Treating compassion fatigue. New York: Burnner/Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Filan, S. L., & Llewellyn-Jones, R. H. (2006). Animal-assisted therapy for dementia: a review of the literature. International Psychogeriatrics, 18(4), 597–611.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gitlin, L. N., Marx, K., Stanley, I. H., & Hodgson, N. (2015). Translating evidence-based dementia caregiving interventions into practice: state-of-the-science and next steps. The Gerontologist, 55, 210–226.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Halbesleben, J. R., & Buckley, M. R. (2004). Burnout in organizational life. Journal of Management, 30(6), 859–879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hanrahan, C., (2013). Social work and human animal bonds and benefits in health research: a provincial study. Critical Social Work, 14(1). Retrieved from
  27. Harr, C., & Moore, B. (2011). Compassion fatigue among social work students in field placement. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(4), 350–363.Google Scholar
  28. Horowitz, M. J. (2006). Work-related trauma effects in child protection social workers. Journal of Social Service Research, 32(3), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kamioka, H., Okada, S., Tsutani, K., Park, H., Okuizumi, H., Handa, S., Oshio, T., Park, S., Kitayuguchi, J., Takafumi, A., Honda, T., & Mutoh, Y. (2014). Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22(2), 371–390.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kash, B. A., Naufal, G. S., Cortés, L., & Johnson, C. E. (2010). Exploring factors associated with turnover among registered nurse (RN) supervisors in nursing homes. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 29(1), 107–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kim, H., Chang, M., Rose, K., & Kim, S. (2012). Predictors of caregiver burden in caregivers of individuals with dementia. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68(4), 846–855.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lachs, M. S., Rosen, T., Teresi, J. A., Eimicke, J. P., Ramirez, M., Silver, S., & Pillemer, K. (2013). Verbal and physical aggression directed at nursing home staff by residents. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 28(5), 660–667.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lefebvre, S. L., Golab, G. C., Christensen, E., Castrodale, L., Aureden, K., Bialachowski, A., & Writing Panel of Working Group. (2008). Guidelines for animal-assisted interventions in health care facilities. AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control, 36(2), 78–85.Google Scholar
  34. Majić, T., Gutzmann, H., Heinz, A., Lang, U. E., & Rapp, M. A. (2013). Animal-assisted therapy and agitation and depression in nursing home residents with dementia: a matched case-control trial. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry: Official Journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(11), 1052–1059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maslach, C. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 397–423.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McGilton, K., Boscart, V., Brown, M., & Bowers, B. (2014). Making tradeoffs between the reasons to leave and reasons to stay employed in long-term care homes: perspectives of licensed nursing staff. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 51(6), 917–926.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morgan, D., Cammer, A., Stewart, N., Crossley, M., D’Arcy, C., Forbes, D., & Karunanayake, C. (2012). Nursing aide reports of combative behavior by residents with dementia: results from a detailed prospective incident diary. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 13(3), 220–227.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Najjar, N., Davis, L. W., Beck-Coon, K., & Carney Doebbeling, C. (2009). Compassion fatigue a review of the research to date and relevance to cancer-care providers. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(2), 267–277.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Netherton, E., & Schatte, D. (2011). Potential for oxytocin use in children and adolescents with mental illness. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 26(4–5), 271–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Newell, J. M., & MacNeil, G. A. (2011). A comparative analysis of burnout and professional quality of life in clinical mental health providers and mental health care administrators. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 26(1), 25–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nordgren, L., & Engström, G. (2014). Animal-assisted intervention in dementia: effects on quality of life. Clinical Nursing Research, 23(1), 7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Haire, M. (2013). Animal-assisted intervention for autism spectrum disorder: a systematic literature review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(7), 1606–1622.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Olmert, M. (2009). Made for each other: the biology of the human-animal bond. Cambridge: Lifelong Books/Da Capo Press.Google Scholar
  44. Pitfield, C., Shahriyarmolki, K., & Livingston, G. (2011). A systematic review of stress in staff caring for people with dementia living in 24-hour care settings. International Psychogeriatrics, 23(1), 4–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Richeson, N. (2003). Effects of animal-assisted therapy on agitated behaviors and social interactions of older adults with dementia. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 18(6), 353–358.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Selbæk, G., Engedal, K., & Bergh, S. (2013). The prevalence and course of neuropsychiatric symptoms in nursing home patients with dementia: a systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14(3), 161–169.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sellers, D. (2006). The evaluation of an animal assisted intervention intervention for elders with dementia in long-term care. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 30(1), 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stewart, D. W. (2012). Compassion fatigue: what is the level among army chaplains? Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 27(1), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tak, S., Sweeney, M. H., Alterman, T., Baron, S., & Calvert, G. M. (2010). Workplace assaults on nursing assistants in US nursing homes: a multilevel analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 100(10), 1938–1945.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. U.S. Agency for International Development Information and Evaluation. (1996). Conducting key information interviews. Performance monitoring and evaluation, 1996(2), Retrieved from:
  51. University of Ottawa. (2016). Facts & figures: aging in Canada and the world. Retrieved from:
  52. Woodhead, E., Northrop, L., & Edelstein, B. (2016). Stress, social support, and burnout among long-term care nursing staff. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 35(1), 84–105.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang, Y., Punnett, L., Gore, R., & CPH-NEW Research Team. (2014). Relationships among employees’ working conditions, mental health, and intention to leave in nursing homes. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 33(1), 6–23.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nourishing Hearts Animal Assisted TherapyRodneyCanada
  2. 2.School of Social WorkKing’s University CollegeLondonCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Social WorkWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations