Voluntary Standardization

AAHS are not standardized through the National Standards of Canada (NSCs) or regulated by Canada’s public sector. Consequently, access to AAHS, such as animal-assisted healthcare, social justice, and corrections services, is inconsistent, ambiguous, and confusing, and quality cannot always be ascertained.

The absence of NSCs has the potential to harm consumers, the public at large, and the animals involved in service delivery while impacting the credibility of service providers and essential resources to sustain and foster innovation. In this context, the term " voluntary " means that interested stakeholders came together voluntarily to begin developing NSCs to fill related gaps. 

Canada's First Voluntary National Standard of Canada (NSC) for Animal-Assisted Human Services

Please click on the embedded links for more information.

Download this NSC                      télécharger la norme        
 Press Release/Communiqué

Animal-Assisted Human Services (AAHS)

AAHS, commonly referred to as Animal-Assisted Services, encompasses a variety of multi- and interdisciplinary practices such as breeding, training and placement of Assistant/Service Animals, and Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI).

AAHS is delivered by an Animal-Assisted Human Service Provider (AAHSP). AAHS is a subcategory within Canada’s human services industry. This evolving industry is a significant driver within an all-encompassing socio-economic sector and growing marketplace.  

Human Service Assistance Animal (HSAA)

A domesticated, healthy, suitable, appropriately socialized, trained, and evaluated animal and positively motivated partner in the delivery of AAHS, such as Therapy Dogs and Assistance/Service Animals.

Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI)

Goal-oriented services that incorporate specially trained and evaluated animals that work in conjunction with multi- and interdisciplinary teams or an Animal-Assisted Service Professional (AASP) within an Animal-Assisted Human Service Provider (AAHSP) to carry out AAA, AAL, and AAT.

Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA)

Informal, recreational, and motivational activities that incorporate Human Service Assistance Animals {HSAAs} with the goal to enhance the quality of life for humans. AAA are delivered in the community and other settings such as hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, educational institutions, and airports. Handlers should be skilled in the populations and settings that they work within.

Animal-Assisted Learning (AAL)

A goal-oriented, planned, and structured activity that incorporates Human Service Assistance Animals (HSAAs) and is directed and delivered by education professionals and trained facilitators such as teachers, coaches, and education aids. AAL includes AAL in education, personal development, and organizational development.

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)

A goal-oriented, evaluated, structured, therapeutic process that incorporates animals (HSAAs) and is delivered by credentialed health professionals or AAHSPs within their scope of practice. 

Assistance/Service Animals

Assistance/Service Animal

A dog or possibly another animal that is individually task trained to assist, work with, and benefit a person with a visible or invisible disability or
life-altering injuries such as physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability, brain injury, or disorder. This is different from an ESA.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

A companion animal (pet) that may provide comfort and emotional support to its owners but is not specifically task-trained for a disability or evaluated for community engagement.

 Assistance/Service Animals Species

Most Assistance/Service Animals appear to be dogs. However, other animals sometimes involved in this work are cats, ferrets, pot-belly pigs, miniature horses, and Capuchin monkeys. 

Understanding the animals' role and the jobs they do under certain conditions is imperative. We aim to conduct further research to help consumers, the public, and other interested stakeholders better navigate this evolving sector's ecosystem. 

A few examples of the deployment of dogs with jobs are seizure-alert and mobility aid and assisting people with cognitive disabilities and brain injuries.