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Starts at $9.98 per contact hour
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4 hours $8.98
8 hours $7.98
12 hours $6.98
20 hours $5.98
30 hours $4.98

Animal-Assisted Therapy

2.0 Contact Hours / 0.20 AOTA CEUs
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe the purpose of animal-assisted therapy, theoretical background, benefits of this type of therapy for humans, common types of animal-assisted therapy, and guidelines for developing an animal-assisted therapy program.
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Animals have been a part of our lives as long as we have been on the planet. The health benefits of the human-animal bond are far reaching. From guide dogs, to watching fish in an aquarium, to swimming with dolphins, animals provide us with companionship, assistance, exercise, a sense of calmness, sensory stimulation, and a level of acceptance that is often difficult to find from any other source.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe the history of animal-assisted therapy.
  • State the purpose of animal-assisted therapy programs and differentiate between the types of therapy animals.
  • Describe three theories that attempt to explain the therapeutic effects of human interactions with companion animals.
  • State the settings in which animal-assisted therapy is utilized.
  • List at least three benefits of animal-assisted therapy.
  • Identify four types of animals used in animal-assisted therapy.
  • State guidelines for animal-assisted therapy programs.
  • Describe the role of the health care provider relative to the human-animal connection.

Jason was only 16 years old when he took that fateful dive off the rocks by the ocean. The minute he hit the water, he knew his life had changed forever. Becoming a paraplegic was difficult enough, but Jason soon found that no one really looked at him in his wheelchair. All the girls at school hung out with the athletic guys, and Jason felt lonely, isolated, and depressed. His mother found a service-animal group and, after months of communication and evaluation, Jason met Ellie, a big, blonde, smiling Golden Retriever who would be his new companion in the world. Soon, people at school and on the street began to talk with Jason, and they were drawn to Ellie. He went on dates, graduated from high school, entered law school, and opened his practice, all with Ellie at his side. She provided love, companionship, acceptance, consolation, joy, and a way to greet the world that allowed him to be seen apart from his physical boundaries and his wheelchair. Jason knew Ellie changed his life.

“Covered with fins, feathers, fur, or other, animals manifest an enlightening presence” (Huebscher, 2000). Animals and their presence provide many health benefits to humans, whether through pet ownership or through therapy or service programs. Pet owners exercise more and have less anxiety (Scott, 2014). They have an external focus of attention that provides physical contact, decreases loneliness and depression, and promotes an interactive and interesting lifestyle. In health care settings, animals of all types are being used more and more often to provide acutely and chronically ill patients with unconditional love, an opportunity to touch and be touched, and healing benefits.

The human/animal bond has been described in ancient literature, modern fiction, and research reports in current professional literature. All of these writings cite something extraordinary about our relationships with animals, which are very different from conventional human relationships. Konrad Lorenz (the famous ethologist), Boris Levinson (considered by many to be the father of animal-assisted therapy), and Leo Bustad (founder of the Delta Society, now called Pet Partners®) are three influential people who helped first coin the term “human/animal bond” (Fine & Beck, 2010).

Animals bring support and hope to individuals through a variety of means and thus enhance the compassionate efforts of health care providers (Frick, 2014). Examples of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) include the following:

 Guide dogs helping a visually impaired individual cross the street

 Dogs and cats bringing smiles and much-needed relief to elderly residents of a long-term care facility

 Disabled children riding a horse with confidence

 Adults and children exhibiting less depression after swimming with dolphins

In addition to those animals mentioned above, ferrets, donkeys, monkeys, fish, birds, guinea pigs, and rabbits are among the types of animals whose qualities have been shown to offer therapeutic support and comfort to their human companions in even the most challenging situations (Graham, 2000).

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
    The American Board of Managed Care Nursing recognizes all of ALLEGRA Learning Solutions' ANCC accredited courses for continuing education credit for Certified Managed Care Nurses (CMCNs).
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC, is an approved provider of continuing education for occupational therapists by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Approved Provider # 3166
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
    This course is approved by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program to be offered by ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC as an individual course. Individual courses, not providers, are approved at the course level. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ACE course approval period: 04/22/2021-04/22/2024. Social workers completing this course receive the specified distance learning continuing education credits.
  • California Board of Behavioral Sciences
    California Board of Behavioral Sciences Provider Number PCE 1564. Course meets the qualifications for the stated hours of continuing education credit for MFTs and/or LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider # CEP 14693 for the number of hours stated.
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
    The California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section accepts continuing education offered by CA-BRN approved providers.
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions (CE Provider # 50-12076) submits all continuing education records to CE BROKER after successful completion.
  • Florida Board of Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of nursing (CE Provider # 50-12076). Courses are automatically submitted to CE Broker.
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions (CE Broker Provider # 50-12076) submits all continuing education records to CE Broker after successful completion.
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Council of Dietetitics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
    This course has been approved by ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for educational credits. NAADAC Provider #813, ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is responsible for all aspects of their programming.
  • NCBTMB -National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education Approved Provider. Provider Number 451562-11.


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Foundational Knowledge

Course Expires:

December 15, 2026

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.