Veterinary Social Work: A Field at the Intersection of Human-Animal Safety
Date & Time
Thursday, November 4, 2021, 4:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Sarah Bernardi

Education has prepared social workers with the skills to formulate appropriate assessment and intervention strategies based on a client's goals and needs; however, in a study conducted by Risley-Curtiss (2010), who explored social work students' exposure to information on the human-animal bond, "82.2 percent of those who include animals in practice reported having no special training to do so. Almost 63 percent said they had no social work course content regarding animals or did not remember such content" (p.43). More recently, Hoy-Gerlach et al. (2017) identified only 20 post-secondary institutions that offer course material related to Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) and while this is certainly an indication of growth, the human-animal bond is still a key topic that contemporary social work curriculum is lacking in. The one branch of social work identified that includes the "link" as a key learning topic is Veterinary Social Work. Veterinary Social Work is an emerging field that places the human-animal bond at the centre of its teachings. While this specialization can be completed as a part of an MSW program, there are very few academic institutions that offer this program worldwide. Through examining how VSW operates in clinical practice, and exploring specific case examples from veterinary social worker's both within Canada and the United States, this presentation will introduce you to an emerging, innovative field in social services and its potential to bridge service gaps for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals.

Key Learnings

  1. Understand the four core areas of Veterinary Social Work practice, research and education.
  2. Understand how the partnership between Veterinary Social Work and veterinary professionals can establish best practices for addressing domestic violence seen in the veterinary industry.
  3. Understand how establishing Veterinary Social Work initiatives within community organizations and healthcare institutions can allow for more thorough assessments and intake processes.
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