Defining Terms Used for Animals Working in Support Roles for People with Support Needs
The nomenclature used to describe animals working in roles supporting people can be confusing. The same term may be used to describe different roles, or two terms may mean the same thing. This confusion is evident among researchers, practitioners, and end users. Because certain animal roles are provided with legal protections and/or government-funding support in some jurisdictions, it is necessary to clearly define the existing terms to avoid confusion. The aim of this paper is to provide operationalized definitions for nine terms, which would be useful in many world regions: “assistance animal”, “companion animal”, “educational/school support animal”, “emotional support animal”, “facility animal”, “service animal”, “skilled companion animal”, “therapy animal”, and “visiting/visitation animal”. At the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) conferences in 2018 and 2020, over 100 delegates participated in workshops to define these terms, many of whom co-authored this paper. Through an iterative process, we have defined the nine terms and explained how they differ from each other. We recommend phasing out two terms (i.e., “skilled companion animal” and “service animal”) due to overlap with other terms that could potentially exacerbate confusion. The implications for several regions of the world are discussed.
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