Companion animals and animals in AAI: Impact of COVID 19

All over the world practitioners, academics and students in human-animal services have experienced profound impacts from COVID-19. But what about the animals we work with and care for?

What has been the effect of the last year on their life, their behaviour and how are they able to meet the demands we place on them as working animals? Do therapy dogs need retraining? Must we behaviourally re-evaluate animals after the lockdowns and program restrictions are lifted? Can programs just reopen and the animals will be “ready to go” back to hospitals, schools or into the riding arena?

Our animal partners too experienced changes in their life, changes in their workload, social changes. But how do we recognize these and just as critically, is it possible that some of the trauma humans experienced, did NOT impact the animals?


Our animal partners too experienced changes in their life, changes in their workload, social changes. But how do we recognize these and just as critically, is it possible that some of the trauma humans experienced, did NOT impact the animals?

Our companion animals have also experienced a lot of change – more people have worked from home during the pandemic; more people have adopted companion animals to share their lives with. What are some of the impacts, and are there adjustments that will need to be made as we look to the future?

Join a panel of animal professionals who will examine the COVID 19 experience through the lens of the various species we work with. We will look back, discuss the present and also project into the future. The way our clients can meet animals in programs may continue to be restricted due to COVID 19,  and may require long term adjustment for the animals.

Be they visiting dogs, therapy horses, guinea pigs, llamas or chickens, or our companion animals at home, it is valuable to take an inter-species look at the COVID 19 experience. Let’s talk about the animals.

Webinar chair and presenter: Michael Kaufmann, Green Chimneys

Michael Kaufmann is the Farm and Wildlife Director at Green Chimneys and the director of the new Sam and Myra Ross Institute, dedicated to research on the human connection to animals and the natural world . He served the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Humane Association (AHA) as a key program director in animal-assisted activities/therapy, humane education & animal welfare. He has contributed to defining publications in the field and has served on numerous national boards & committees. He has lectured internationally on humane education, animal assisted activities ad how the link between child abuse and animal cruelty offers opportunity for collaboration between various helping professions.


Dimitra Drago, Italy

Dimitra has always been passionate about animals and always wanted to combine this passion with her job. She started working in the human-animal field in 2009 with horses and therapeutic riding. After obtaining a degree in psychology she applied to Green Chimneys for an internship which was a life changing experience. She learned so much and finally understood that she could turn her passion for nature and animals into a job. She continued to study and completed a master’s degree in animal assisted interventions. She currently works with dogs, horses, donkeys and farm animals. She is involved in different programmes such as visiting programmes in nursing homes and residences for people with disabilities, teaching farm programmes, summer camps at the farm, educational programmes about animals in schools and at the farm, animal assisted interventions for children with special needs. She lives in Milan, Italy and the name of the farm is “Cascina Selva”.

Eddie Lee, Hong Kong Institute of Animal Assisted Interventions (HKIAAI) Hong Kong

Eddie is an Animal Assisted Interventions Practitioner, Psychological Counselor, Mediator, Biologist, Environmentalist, and Canine behaviourist with canine related services backgrounds such as therapy dogs and guide dogs. His organized activities aim at creating a society with equality and mutual love among human and animals. He founded the Hong Kong Institute of Animal Assisted Interventions (HKIAAI) and has been providing free social services facilitated by accredited animals. His recent projects include participants with substance use behavior, special education needs, autism spectrum disorders and also involve Animal Welfare Education.

Ana Martos Martinez-Caja, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium

Ana Martos Martinez-Caja is a final year PhD fellow from the Ethology and Animal Welfare lab in the Ghent University Veterinary Faculty. She graduated as a Veterinary Surgeon in 2006 (University of Cordoba, Spain). Pursuing an interest in animal behaviour, she then obtained a specialisation diploma in Clinical Ethology (University Complutense of Madrid, 2007). In 2008, she started working as a small animal practitioner in the Veterinary Clinic Bevilacqua-Strazzari (Medicina, Italy) where she practiced internal medicine and behavioural therapy for 5 years before refocusing her her career towards research. In 2013, she enrolled in the Masters Programme of Applied Animal Welfare and Animal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh, which increased her interest in the human-animal relationship and its repercussions on the welfare of animas and humans. This interest led to the start of her PhD at Ghent University where she has been researching the benefits of the Human-Animal Bond in people experiencing difficult life circumstances, with focus on the phenomenon of the Seizure Alert Dogs, and, more recently, in the consequences of the COVID-19 lockdowns both in humans and animals. Ana’s research interests also include the areas of animal personality and cognition and the welfare of companion animals. She is a member of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (UK) and the organisation AVATMA, that lobbies against bullfighting in Spain using science-based evidence.

Zenithson Ng, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, USA

Zenithson Ng is a clinical associate professor of small animal primary care at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. He received his DVM from Cornell University; then completed an internship at the ASPCA, and an ABVP canine/feline residency at Virginia Tech. His clinical interests include behavior, dentistry, preventive medicine, and management of chronic disease. His research and teaching interests span all aspects of the human-animal bond including the effect of human-animal interaction on both humans and animals, the veterinary-client relationship, and stress reduction in both veterinary and animal-assisted intervention settings.

Roswitha Zink, e.motion – Lichtblickhof, Austria

Roswitha Zink, M.Sc, studied biology and psychology, works as animal assisted psychotherapist mainly with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma, grief or get palliative care. Passion and expertise are the training of therapy horses to make their special non-verbal abilities available to people in therapy. Body language and affect attunement as well as self-efficacy are valuable key words.
Home in Europe, Vienna, Austria in the Otto Wagner Spital on the