Sustained Effects of Animal-Assisted Crisis Response on Stress in School Shooting Survivors

Ariann E. Robino¹, David M. Feldman², Alyssa N. Stein², Melody A. Schmaltz², Hailey A. Fitzpatrick², Jaime L. Tartar², Frankie Pizzo², Marah Friedman², & Olivia Feldman³

¹Deloitte Consulting
²College of Psychology, Nova Southeastern University

Animal-assisted crisis response (AACR) is an intervention that harnesses the human-animal bond for therapeutic benefit through specially trained animal-handler teams deployed to provide comfort following a mass traumatic event. During the months and years following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, therapy animals joined the campus community to promote healing and stress reduction. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the sustained effects on bonding and stress in a sample of survivors of the tragedy who participated in animal-assisted crisis response. Data was collected through a quasi-experimental study of three intervention groups (i.e., discussion of AACR, viewing photos related to AACR, and engaging with therapy animals). Cortisol analysis indicated a reduction in stress post-intervention across groups with the largest difference in the therapy animal interaction group. Implications for AACR and addressing the psychological effects of mass traumas are provided.

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Keywords: animal-assisted crisis response, animal-assisted intervention, human-animal bond, therapy animals
Posted in Pre-Publication Articles