Morgan Dunbar

Furry Aspirin: Ethical Considerations of Animal Assisted Therapy

By, Morgan Jamie Dunbar


This presentation will examine the human-animal bond and “therapeutic” associations between human and non-human animals.  Attention will be given to the preoccupation with animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programs’ benefits to human health.  Audience members will be challenged to expand their scope of consideration to include the consequences and implications of AAT programs on non-human animals.

The AVMA states that therapeutic programs involving animals are “designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function.” This description is grossly deficient in its failure to address or even acknowledge the ethical issues surrounding animal usage in therapeutic regime.  In addition to the seemingly scarce concern for the actual animals involved, few guidelines regulate AAT programs. Those guidelines that do exist are, in the majority of cases, self-regulated and emphasize the safeguarding of human welfare.  Along with a focus on regulatory shortfalls, this presentation will discuss the detrimental effects of AAT programs on the animals involved.

As well as examining the use of domesticated animals (such as therapy dogs and cats), this presentation will also consider the use of undomesticated, wild animal species (including dolphin swim programs and monkey assistance programs).

One question which will be proposed for audience commentary: Ought individuals advocating total liberation concern themselves with the need for and advancement of objective AAT evaluation methods, or is this kind of regulatory work tantamoun to a welfarism?


Morgan Jamie Dunbar is the founder and director of Animal Allies of Western New York. Dunbar’s participation in invasive “animal research,” as a requirement of her undergraduate studies, led her to recognize systemic animal exploitation, and its dependence upon the desensitization and indoctrination of students within our education system.  As a result of this realization, Dunbar now campaigns for social justice and total liberation.


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