Meers, L. L., Contalbrigo, L., Samuels, W. E. et al. 2022. Canine-assisted interventions and the relevance of welfare assessments for human health, and transmission of zoonosis: A literature review. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 9, 899889.
CAIs (canine-assisted interventions) include “canine-assisted therapy” in which a therapist sets client-oriented goals, “canine-assisted activities” with recreational goals for clients, and “canine-assisted education/learning” in which teachers or coaches create learning goals for students or clients. CAIs vary in nearly every way; their only common trait is the involvement of dogs to respond to human need. However, the benefits of involving dogs are highly dependent on the animal’s health and behavior. A dog exhibiting negative behavior or an unwell dog might pose a risk, especially for CAI target groups, specifically individuals with immunosuppression, chronic illness, children, elderly, etc. Therefore, positive animal welfare as preventative medicine to avoid incidents or transmission of zoonosis is an attractive hypothesis, with implications for human and animal, health and well-being. This review aims to summarize the current published knowledge regarding different aspects of welfare in CAIs and to discuss their relevance in the light of health and safety in CAI participants. As method for this study, a literature search was conducted (2001–2022) using the Prisma method, describing issues of dog welfare as defined in the Welfare Quality® approach. This welfare assessment tool includes 4 categories related to behavior, health, management, and environment; it was, therefore, applicable to CAIs. Results indicate that dogs working in CAIs are required to cope with diverse variables that can jeopardize their welfare. In conclusion, we propose regular welfare assessments for dogs in CAIs, which would also protect the quality of the CAI sessions and the clients’ safety and well-being.