Human-Animal Relationships and Social Work: Opportunities Beyond the Veterinary Environment

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About this talk

Despite the tremendous, transformational advances made in veterinary social work, much more needs to be accomplished to incorporate the significance of human-animal relationships in the family genogram, social work curricula and practice beyond the veterinary environment. This presentation will review eight reasons why a species-spanning approach to social work that incorporates human-animal interactions is significant to practice, pre-professional training and continuing education. It will identify seven potential areas where social workers can use their problem-solving skills to enhance resolution of clients’ issues. It will describe five additional career opportunities where social workers can make a difference. It will suggest simple action steps that social workers in multiple fields of practice can undertake to: obtain more comprehensive family assessments; validate important members of families; gain earlier recognition of abusive behaviors; acquire a more holistic understanding of clients’ health, safety and well-being; build stronger support networks for those in need; and conduct earlier interventions that support resiliency. Special attention will be paid to client needs and social work opportunities in low-income, underserved and marginalized populations.

Learning Objectives:

• How inclusion of human-animal relationships within the family genogram can enhance assessments and interventions and better inform social work training, practice and policy, particularly in low-income and underserved communities.

• How potential social work career opportunities that incorporate human-animal relationships can be expanded beyond the Veterinary Social Work sphere.

• How inclusion of human-animal relationships should be considered more widely as part of social work’s commitment to social justice and fighting oppression and seen as opportunities for research, practice, advocacy, and advancing public policy.

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