About this Research Topic
Animals, predominantly dogs, have increasing roles performing useful specific tasks and offering meaningful support and comfort to people with disabilities. Uses of assistance animals accelerated in the 1980s and, in the United States, people using service animals were given protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The role of guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs for the hearing impaired was expanded to include assistance dogs for people with mobility issues, psychiatric disorders, seizures, diabetes and autism spectrum disorders. More recently, miniature horses were recognized as service animals and any suitable species may serve as emotional support animals without being trained to perform specific tasks. Growing populations of assistance animals serve in our communities but challenges exist in developing appropriate processes for their care, use, and access to private and public spaces.
Research demonstrates the impacts of handler-managed assistance animals and clarifies best practices in relation to them. This research, however, remains limited in many crucial areas and its inter-disciplinary and sometimes informal nature often makes access to this research difficult for stakeholders and reduces its impact with important leaders, funders, and regulatory agencies that influence thinking in this area. The increased use of assistance animals is also complicated by the lack of surveillance, and a complex and often contradictory regulatory framework.
For this Research Topic, we invite papers representing a variety of approaches from various countries that elucidate and advance the roles of assistance animals. We encourage submissions from authors representing the various aspects of the uses of assistance animals. Subjects may include but are not limited to: a human-animal studies perspective on the roles of assistance animals, studies on the efficiacy and outcomes of using assistance animals, legal and regulatory perspectives, relevant experiences of veterinarians and human health professionals, and handlers’ experiences as well as case studies.
For the purposes of this Research Topic, service dogs and miniature horses, and emotional support animals, are collectively referred to as assistance animals. Therapy animals and other animal-assisted interventions are outside the scope of this topic.
Keywords: Service Animal, Assistance Animal, Emotional Support Animal, Dogs, Disability
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.