Aotearoa New Zealand social workers and their views of inclusion of animals in social work practice – A descriptive study

Polly Yeung, Nicole Robertson, Lucy Sandford-Reed


PURPOSE: Given the benefits of the human–animal bond (HAB), animals are being used in a range of social work settings. It is important to gain a more in-depth understanding of social work practitioners’ knowledge and actions in these interactions. The purpose of this study was to examine the views and knowledge of social workers in relation to the HAB in Aotearoa New Zealand. METHODS: A survey using an online portal was administrated to qualified social workers via professional and community networks to assess their exposure, level of knowledge, support, training, and barriers to animal–human relations. RESULTS: A total of 140 questionnaires were used for analysis. The results, similar to findings from Canada and the United States, indicate that social workers seemed to have high exposure to information about the benefits of HAB and understanding of the connections between animal abuse and child abuse/domestic violence. Only 68% have included animals in their social work practice. The vast majority have had no specific training in HAB. Untested or untrained animals were also reported to have been used in social work intervention practice. The lack of clear workplace policies, support and professional training in HAB were key barriers that inhibited the inclusion of animals in practice. CONCLUSIONS: Lack of understanding over how to include HAB in practice has serious implications for social work. HAB continues to influence and contribute to the lives of families and individuals and social workers have a duty to develop general awareness and knowledge of the benefits to human health and wellbeing of interacting with animals.


Human–animal bonds; social work practice; animal-human relations; social justice;

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