(Text and photos Emma Infante)*
Maribel Vila and Mona Tellier, accompanied by two canine assistants, contributed a new practical dimension to the “Animal Law and society” UAB Master’s. By presenting their therapies and those of the Animal Assisted Education Therapy (AAET), the researchers demonstrate the positive effects of canine education by the Affinity´s Foundation Affinity as it promotes the reciprocal well-being of human beings and animals. The workshop gave a well-rounded look and practical view at a career education that gives priority to the theoretical and judicial issues of animal rights. The benefits derived from a canine respectful education and from an opportune intervention of the domestic animals in welfare or educational tasks must not be ignored for the sake of specialists as well as society.
Last Friday, February 3, 2012, we had the pleasure of discussing UAB´s “Master of Animal Law and Society” program with two extraordinary teachers in the field. Though we regularly rely on a variety of disciplines and of points of view, the diversity of perspectives and animal species present at this event was a unique experience. Two canine trainers from the Affinity Foundation, Maribel Vila and Mona Tellier, shared their knowledge of the positive effects of Pet therapies as well as Therapy and Education assistance with pets. A wonderful Labrador and a not less attractive giant Poodle demonstrated the benefits of a suitable education which is provided by the "Positive Canine Education." This practice is a pedagogic line based on the agreeable reinforcement of the suitable behavior and the ignorance of the undesirable behavior that tends, for this motive, to become extinct. For results, and logical evolution, many professionals of the classic training based on punishment and penalty return to this model out of respect and the animal’s well-being. Old concepts that have been transmitted across generations are incompatible with the new standards of animal care however; they are less effective, more problematic and worsen the quality of the relationship between the dog and the human handler in charge. The didactic material shared by “Positives Can," allowed us to observe the consequences of the use of shock collars, and the similar effects of other types of materials that are considered to be, erroneously, educational. Behavior problems are one of the most important factors leading to pet abandonment. The message remains clear: the education of our canine companions when necessary must always be positive and humane.
There exists a basic desirable education for the cordial daily interactions between humans and their animals however there are animals that go beyond this basic necessity. Dogs with a docile, pacific and stable personality can enormously positive and helpful for humans with special needs. Physical, psychic and social limitations can be progressively overcome by means integrating human therapists and canine assistants under the supervision of professionals such as Maribel and Mona. There are different levels in which animals can be involved as part of health rehabilitation. It is important not to confuse the TEAAC with the labor that assistance animals provide or try to replace either since doing so would limit the benefits that each can provide. The role and benefits of guide dogs is widely known, however, this practice has now been extended to other handicaps as well. Also, the TEAAC (Therapy and education assisted by pets), for example, selected polite dogs accustomed to the movement and behavior of children with cerebral paralysis who experience movement spasms. In other occasions, these animals are able to stimulate the senses and create social benefits for patients with varying cognitive or neurological capabilities ranging from elders, adults and children.
It was especially moving to know that the work that these Affinity educators have done with boys and girls who suffer from social exclusion. Inside the project "Salvant barreres " the teenagers, after having turned to educational modals of shelter dogs, integrated concepts such as limits, respect, and commitment. The great challenge of the TEAAC is to combine the large potential benefits that humans can obtain from the presence such amazing animals with the preservation of the psychological and emotional well-being of the animal which they deserve. There are no official standards for dog educators or dog trainers and there is no regulation on the treatment of and therapeutic activities in relation to pets or assistance dogs. With regard to the legal issues, Maribel and Mona’s work seem capable of overcoming such a broad challenge, and they help other professionals of the Therapies Assisted with Animals reach these goals.
It is necessary to mention that this class complements the previous lesson led by chairwoman of the Foundation Affinity, Maria Azkargorta the week before. The session revealed the details of the Affinity´s Pet Abandon Study in Spain. The value of this report that was until now released only annually, is an exceptional panorama of the Country and revels worrying data. More than 100.000 animals are gathered every year in the different refuges and shelters. It is calculated that 22 animals are left each year by every 1000 inhabitants. The persistence of the problem and the social need for a massive awareness campaign has motivated the development of a new strategy by the Foundation Affinity which will create a television show for the National TV2 " Más que perros y gatos”.
Internal link: Workshop photos
*Philosophy Degree, University Graduate in Nursering, Post graduate in Tropical Medicine, Mental Health Nurse and Psychotherapy of group. Co-founder of Futur Animal. Photography and dogs lover, and " Master in Animal Law and Society ", 2012-2013