J. López-Cepero,1,2, M.A. Perea-Mediavilla2, J.L. Sarasola3, & A. Tejada2
(1) Universidad de Sevilla, Spain; (2) INTAP Association, Spain; (3) Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain
Over the past two decades, there has been increasing evidence of the benefits of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) among diverse groups and settings. However, little is known of the variables that can affect the attitudes of professionals towards these interventions. Two studies were done with university students in southern Spain. The first study (N=474, 80% women, M=23 years old) showed that personal experience with companion animals was the variable that best predicted intent to practice AAI, following by information received by the mass media and gender (higher intent among men). In this study, neither reading scientific literature on the topic nor formal training in AAI had a significant effect. The second study (N=22 women, M=24.5 years old) evaluated the change in attitudes before and after a three-hour learning session that included technical information and practical exercises. According to this study, 95% of the participants had higher expectations for AAI after the session, a change that can be attributed mainly to the direct experience with the animal and to a lesser extent, to the conceptual and scientific contents of the session. Researchers discuss the implicit risk of confusion detected between personal preferences and the technical capacity of AAI, revealing a need for training that is not currently covered in undergraduate studies.