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; Dr Kim McMahon (Nundah Village Veterinary Clinic); Liam Clay (UQ);  Trish Eats (UQ)
  • 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

Laura Mundy


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

Exploring the use of AAT in youth populations that are seeking help for mental health distress

Shengjie Zhang

Masters in Animal Science

Dr J Cawdell-Smith, Associate Professor C Driscoll

Equine-Assisted Therapy: A Survey of Australian Practices

Nesha Saunders PhD Professor N Pachana, Associate Professor C Driscoll Therapy Dogs in the Emergency Services
We are seeking new PhD/MPhil Students for projects in these areas:
  • Animal-Assisted Therapy in Audiology: Investigate how goal-oriented, planned, and structured interventions involving equines and canines can be directed by audiologists to improve the lives of those with central auditory processing disorder, tinnitus and hyperacusis, balance disorders, and other otologic conditions.
  • Therapeutic Effects of Volunteering in Animal-Assisted Interventions: Discover the benefits to both human volunteers and working animals involved in AAI.
Publications by Members:


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.

Harpur, P., Bronitt, S., Billings, P., Verreynne, M-L., & Pachana, N. (2018). Regulating fake assistance animals - A comparative review of disability law in Australia and the United States. Animal Law Review, 1, 77-97.

Harpur, P., Verreynne, M-L., Pachana, N., Billings, P., & Ritchie, B. (2016). Disability assistance animals or not? Problems in policy and practice workshop: Summary and scoping discussion paper. <>

Harpur, P., & Pachana, N. (2018). My Animal, my support, and my new home in a retirement village: Disability discrimination, assistance animals and old age. Elder Law Review, in press.

Hunter, C., Verreynne, M-L., Pachana, N., & Harpur, P. (2018). The impact of disability-assistance animals on the psychological health of workplaces: A systematic review. Human Resource Management Review, in press.

Wood, E., Harpur, P., & Pachana, N.A. (2018). Teaching an old dog new tricks:  A look into courthouse facility dogs and their place in the Australian courtroom. Alternative Law Journal, 2, 89-95.

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.