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UNF Continuing Education offers new animal assisted interventions and interactions certificate

The University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education is now offering a noncredit program and certificate as a Human-Animal Intervention Specialist (C-HAIS) for healthcare, human service, educational professionals and volunteers who wish to include animals in their goal-driven or recreational work. This course is also appropriate for dog trainers who help prepare humans and their animals for Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI).

The program is an option for those who want to pursue advanced study but do not seek a graduate degree. The inaugural class will begin in Fall 2022.

Research has shown that the human-animal bond can benefit humans physically, socially and psychologically. In fact, working with animals has been a part of healthcare since the ninth century. Nurses, counselors, criminal justice professionals, teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers and others have found innovative and effective ways to work with animals in their practices with vulnerable populations. And the work is not limited to dogs, as horses, cats, rabbits, birds and other species have proven worthy therapy partners.

The certificate program will provide an academic approach to human-animal bonding and the healing potential of animal-assisted interventions and interactions with vulnerable populations — once casually known as "pet therapy." The program consists of five six-week online sessions. In addition, there will be an optional hands-on practicum in Summer 2023. The program is designed for health and human service professionals and volunteers who are interested in incorporating animal-assisted intervention and interaction into their work.

“We are so excited about the additional opportunities available by partnering UNF’s Animal Assisted Interventions Initiative in the Brooks College of Health with the Division of Continuing Education,” said Dr. Carlene Taylor, UNF public health assistant professor.

The training will be available to the local community and beyond while supporting UNF’s student support service programs such as Campus Canines visiting therapy dog teams, the Equine Therapy Program at Hunter’s Run Farm in Ponte Vedra and OspreyPERCH. The OspreyPERCH embedded counseling program focuses on prevention and early intervention utilizing counseling and holistic health practices, including spirituality, creativity, animals, nature, exercise and nutrition.

The certificate program will be taught by two exceptional professionals with more than 40 years of combined experience in animal-assisted therapy dog training, Dr. Amy Johnson Binder and Melissa Winkle. Binder has developed and directed the online animal-assisted intervention certificate program at Oakland University in Michigan and directed its Center for Human Animal Interventions for over 14 years. Winkle is an occupational therapist and current president of the European-based Animal Assisted Intervention International. She has worked with Oakland University's Center for Human-Animal Interventions since 2014.

Registration is now open and includes a discount for registrants who book and pay for all modules in advance. For cost, registration and to view more information including instructor biographies and course schedules, please visit the UNF Animal Assisted Intervention website or call the UNF Division of Continuing Education at (904) 642-4200.