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Division of Continuing Education

AAS Program Courses

Each program cohort begins in the fall. The program includes five consecutive 6-week courses in the following areas and is co-taught by Melissa Winkle, Amy (Johnson) Binder, and well-respected guest lecturers. Each course must be completed in sequential order.

All courses will use one textbook: Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy (5th Edition), edited by Aubrey Fine, ISBN: 978-0128153956

  • Course 1: Foundations of Animal-Assisted Services

    Foundations of Animal-Assisted Services

    A historical and theoretical foundation for the inclusion of animals as an adjunct to traditional practices in health, healthcare and education settings. An overview of training and practice competency guidelines, techniques, national registrations, ethics of practice, and animal welfare issues impacting the field of Animal-Assisted Services (AAS). This course requires a community-based site visit in the student’s home community to be arranged by the student. This course is suitable for mental health, medical, and education professionals, visiting volunteers, and anyone interested in including animals in healing. Delivered in an interactive distance learning format, this course is open to English-speaking students nationally and internationally.

    • Demonstrate understanding of the component services that make up the field of AAS
    • Engage in meaningful and mutually beneficial human-animal relationships
    • Demonstrate the means to share one’s human-animal relationship with others to facilitate healing
    • Summarize the moral and ethical considerations for engaging animals in the professional healthcare environment
    • Generalize the application of AAS within the participant’s chosen healthcare discipline
    • Demonstrate knowledge of further training, evaluation, registrations, and/or certifications necessary to practice AAS in healthcare disciplines ethically
    • Demonstrate integration of research into theoretical practice frameworks


    Required Textbook

    Fine, A. (Ed.), (2019). Handbook on animal assisted therapy: Foundations and guidelines for animal-assisted interventions, 5th ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press/Elsevier. ISBN 978-0128153956.


  • Course 2: Animal Care Plans in Animal-Assisted Services

    Animal Care Plans in Animal-Assisted Services

    Animal Care Plans helps you prepare yourself and your animal to work in a therapeutic or educational setting including concepts associated with the selection of animals, identifying signs of stress and enjoyment in dogs, using humane training methods, and more.


  • Course 3: Session Planning for Special Populations in Animal-Assisted Services

    Session Planning for Special Populations in Animal-Assisted Services

    Includes a closer look at vulnerable populations and considerations for implementing AAS. Also covers treatment planning vs. session planning, having intentionality in practice, identifying outcomes for sessions, applying a theoretical framework, and more to ensure better outcome alignment and achievement as well as a safe, ethical practice.


  • Course 4: Administrative Policies in Animal-Assisted Services

    Administrative Policies in Animal-Assisted Services

    This course addresses concerns of organizations and institutions related to risk and liability. Bringing a live, sentient being to work brings considerably more risks than bringing crayons or sand trays. In this course, you will conduct risk assessments and management plans to mitigate risks, insurance for AAS practices, review zoonotic concerns, and more.


  • Course 5: Animal-Assisted Services Capstone Project

    Animal-Assisted Services Capstone Project

    This Capstone Project brings it all together. Within each course (1–4), you will have developed sections of your final Capstone. Mentored by your instructors and/or guest lecturers, students have the options of (1) Developing a final program proposal for their dream AAS program, (2) Conducting/Assisting an instructor-supported research project on a program of their choice (3) A reflection paper on your learning experience (4) A comprehensive literature review/bibliography for a research topic suggested by your instructor.


  • Course 6: Animal-Assisted Services Practicum

    Animal-Assisted Services Practicum

    Attend an onsite 20-hour (2 ½ days) live workshop with your instructors and special guests at the University of North Florida campus in Jacksonville, Florida (just 8 miles from Jacksonville Beach).



The instructors are active healthcare and human service professionals who have been in practice and have included AAS for 40+ combined years. They have been teaching AAS at the university level since 2002, and AAS certificate programs since 2007. They have chosen UNF to launch their updated curriculum which includes several well-respected guest lecturers.

Melissa Y. Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA is an occupational therapist and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with over 20 years of experience in both areas. She is President of Dogwood Therapy Services, an occupational therapy private practice and dog training facility in New Mexico, USA. Melissa is a founding member and vice-chair of the European-based organization, Animal Assisted Intervention International and a senior coordinator for the International Community of Anthrozoology. Melissa designs and delivers curricula internationally for universities, professional conferences, and organizations. She is a consultant for animal-assisted services program development and offers in-person and virtual human-dog team coaching. Melissa is a practitioner, educator, and research team member. Her special interest areas include animal-assisted services, animal welfare, human-animal relationship development, program development, and service dogs.

Dr. Amy Binder, EdD, MA, MAT, LPC, CPDT-KA, UW-AAB, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and certified dog trainer. She founded (2005) and directs the non-profit, Teacher’s Pet: Dogs and Kids Learning Together, which pairs at-risk and adjudicated youth with harder-to-adopt shelter dogs for the benefit of both. Additionally, she piloted an apprenticeship program in Detroit bringing homeless youth into a city animal shelter as well as developed an education program for inmate workers at a municipal shelter. Previously, she developed and directed Oakland University’s online Animal Assisted Intervention Certificate Program and directed its Center for Human Animal Interventions for over 14 years. She is Secretary of the American Psychological Association Human Animal Interactions Division 17 and coordinates the monthly AAS webinars. She has published more than two dozen journal articles and book chapters as well as presented internationally on the topic of Human Animal Interactions and Animal Assisted AAS.