School of Health in Social Science

Animal-assisted intervention & therapy

Projects examining the therapeutic benefits of animal-assisted interventions for children and young people, exploring associated outcomes and therapeutic mechanisms, as well as the welfare impact on the animals involved.

Animal-assisted therapy for mental illness

This project is a current funded PhD with Emma Hawkins in collaboration with the Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, and the University of the West of Scotland. The study has produced systematic reviews of animal-assisted interventions for schizophrenia and stroke and will include a feasibility study of AAI for schizophrenia or psychosis.

Equine-assisted interventions for children and adolescents

We have carried out and published a study on the impact of a horse-riding intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and demonstrated a positive impact on some aspects of autism symptoms and challenging behaviour. Our current work is in collaboration with Strength and Learning Through Horses, a UK charity to evaluate their education and therapy programme for children and young people with social and emotional difficulties.

Strength and learning through horses video



Canine-assisted intervention for older adults

This project is a collaboration with ‘Give a Dog a Bone’, Scottish SPCA, and Glasgow Caledonian University.  We are assisting in the evaluation of the ‘Give a Dog a Bone’ community canine-assisted drop-in sessions for older adults.  We will also interview older adults who have rehomed pets to gather information on their personal experiences and their views on the impact pets have had on their mental health and feelings of loneliness.    


Animal-assisted activities for children in kin and foster care

This work is in collaboration with Fostering Compassion a charity based in Fife, Scotland. We will be working with Fostering Compassion to evaluate the impact of their animal assisted workshops for children in kin and foster care. 


Campus Dogs

This is an exciting new project for the University of Edinburgh.  Like many universities, we are seeing an increase in the number of students seeking support for mental health and stress-related difficulties. We will be evaluating the impact of canine-assisted interventions on students’ health and wellbeing over the next few years.  This will be a rolling project to create an evidence-base on the impact of the interventions and to test the feasibility of creating a campus dog programme for the University of Edinburgh. We will be liaising with our US colleagues in this research because they have extensive expertise in delivering and evaluating campus dog programmes. The project will be in association with Therapets.