The Animal-Assisted Interventions Research Unit


This Research Unit is devoted to the study of animal-assisted interventions (AAI), whereby animals are included in health, education, and human services for the purpose of therapeutic gains. Animal-assisted therapies, education, and activities seek to provide a range of benefits, in physical and mental health, in addition to behavioural change and quality of life. Animals involved in such interventions are viewed as co-therapists whose well-being, including the right to flourish, is of paramount concern.

The Unit’s research agenda seeks to empirically demonstrate that live human-animal interaction has unique therapeutic effects for the general public, as well as for those populations with clinical dysfunction. Our investigations will contribute to evidence-based practice in the field of animal-assisted interventions.

Capitalising on the strengths of individual team members and collaborators across the disciplines of anthrozoology, equine science, veterinary science, philosophy, psychology, social work, education, and rehabilitation therapies amongst others, this Unit provides opportunities for world-class, multidisciplinary research of the highest standards.


Associate Professor Carlie Driscoll (School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences)

Dr Judy Cawdell-Smith (School of Agriculture and Food Sciences)

Deputy Director:

Jessica Hill (UQ School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences)

  • Animal Behaviourist -  Evangelos Diamantakos (University of Thessaly, Greece)
  • Animal Endocrinology – Dr Stephen Anderson (UQ School of Biomedical Sciences)
  • Audiology – Assoc/Prof Carlie Driscoll (UQ School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences)
  • Education – Maria Ejlertsen (UQ School of Education)
  • Equine Science - Dr Judy Cawdell-Smith (UQ School of Agriculture & Food Sciences), Tangi Irwin (Texas Tech University), Shengjie Zhang (UQ School of Agriculture & Food Sciences)
  • Medicine - Dr Theresa Scott (UQ School of Medicine)
  • Occupational Therapy - Dr Pamela Meredith (Central Queensland University); Jessica Hill (UQ School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences)
  • Philosophy (Ethics) – Dr Simon Coghlan (Australian Catholic University)
  • Psychology - Prof Nancy Pachana (UQ School of Psychology); Dr Rachel Hogg (Charles Sturt University, Dept. of Psychology), Michelle Black (Elegrow)
  • Social Work – Dr Deborah Walsh (UQ School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Work)
  • Veterinary Science – Dr Judy Cawdell-Smith; Dr Simon Coghlan
  • Law – Dr Paul Harpur (UQ TC Beirne School of Law)
Research Higher Degree Candidates:




Project Title/Description

Jessica Hill


Professor J Zivianni, Associate Professor C Driscoll, Dr J Cawdell-Smith

Canine-assisted Occupational Therapy Interventions and Engagement in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Shengjie Zhang Masters in Animal Science Dr J Cawdell-Smith, Associate Professor C Driscoll Equine-Assisted Therapy: A Survey of Australian Practices

Driscoll, C., & Cawdell-Smith, J. (2017). Animal-Assisted Interventions: A potential role in audiological rehabilitation? The Hearing Journal, 70(9), 34-35.

Hill, J., Zivianni, J., Driscoll, C., & Cawdell-Smith, J. (2018). Canine assisted interventions and social behaviours for children on the autism spectrum: A systematic review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, in press.

Interested in Joining Us?

Please email

Support, Donations and Bequests

You can support our important research endeavours in many ways:

  1. By making a direct donation to the Research Unit or to a specific project. To do this, please contact
  2. By making a bequest to the Research Unit in your Will. For more information on how to make a bequest, please contact the Bequests and Planned Giving Manager on +61 7 3346 3904 or email For more information on what a bequest is and what your bequest can support, you can download this Bequests and Legacies Fact Sheet
  3. By sponsoring a new PhD student through provision of a scholarship. Please contact to discuss this option.
  4. By joining us in a collaborative research project involving your organisation.