Most research to date in the field of animal-assisted intervention relates to the potential positive effects for the recipients of an intervention. However, the risks to humans and dogs participating in TGI should not be ignored. In institutions, whether schools or retirement homes, infectious diseases, parasites and allergies can play a role. In addition, recipients could be injured if the dog bites, scratches, or jumps on them, which is much more likely if the dog is not suited for the mission and/or is overwhelmed by the intervention. So the welfare of dogs directly affects the safety of humans. Adverse effects to a dog may result from inappropriate training methods or inappropriate handling and contact during intervention.

Animal-assisted pedagogy is also becoming increasingly popular, as it is said to promote children’s learning processes and development, among other things. While previous research has focused on the potential positive effects for students, aspects of animal welfare and classroom safety have been little studied. In a recent study, a survey was now conducted at 54 Bavarian schools, each with a school assistance dog.

As deployments of dogs in the classroom have become more popular, many manuals, online guides, etc. have been published by support groups, organizations, experts, and others with unknown qualifications. At the same time, there is a lack of legal regulations, standardized guidelines and/or scientific support.

The causes of stress in dogs are well known, as are the measures to prevent, recognize and alleviate stress. However, it is questionable whether this knowledge is applied in the everyday life of school assistance dogs. The objective of the study was to investigate whether dog operations in schools are conducted in a satisfactory manner with regard to animal welfare and human safety, and to identify problematic issues that may require awareness and prevention measures.

In summary, this study raises serious concerns about canine welfare and student safety and emphasizes the importance of national guidelines, including certification requirements, which are critical to improve in this setting.


Emilie M.Y. Bidoli, Angelika Firnkes, Angela Bartels, Michael H. Erhard, Dorothea Döring. Dogs working in schools-Safety awareness and animal welfare. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Volume 57,
2022, Pages 35-48, ISSN 1558-7878,

To the presenter: Sandra Foltin studied biology at the University of Duisburg-Essen; psychology at Towson University (USA) and law at the Baltimore School of Law (USA). She received her doctorate from the University of Duisburg-Essen with a focus on the behavioral biology of dogs. She started animal-assisted intervention with her shelter dogs back in 1991 at the Delta Society (now pet partners) and has continued this work here in Germany ever since. It itself offers further training to the proceeds of which go entirely to animal and nature conservation. Sandra Foltin is involved in several practical projects in animal welfare and ethics projects and founded her own non-profit association for nature and animal welfare in 2009. For years, she has been committed to animal-friendly use according to the latest studies to ensure their welfare. She is also a scientific advisor to the Quality Network School Assistance Dogs e. V.

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