A revised taxonomy of assistance animals

Parenti, Lindsay; Foreman, Anne; Jean Meade, B.; Wirth, Oliver
October 2013
Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development;2013, Vol. 50 Issue 6, p745
Academic Journal
The use of animals in various assistive, therapeutic, and emotional support roles has contributed to the uncoordinated expansion of labels used to distinguish these animals. To address the inconsistent vocabulary and confusion, this article proposes a concise taxonomy for classifying assistance animals. Several factors were identified to differentiate categories, including (1) whether the animal performs work or tasks related to an individual's disability; (2) the typical level of skill required by the animal performing the work or task; (3) whether the animal is used by public service, military, or healthcare professionals; (4) whether training certifications or standards are available; and (5) the existence of legal public access protections for the animal and handler. Acknowledging that some category labels have already been widely accepted or codified, six functional categories were identified: (1) service animal; (2) public service animal; (3) therapy animal; (4) visitation animal; (5) sporting, recreational, or agricultural animal; and (6) support animal. This taxonomy provides a clear vocabulary for use by consumers, professionals working in the field, researchers, policy makers, and regulatory agencies.


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