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Human-dog bond can aid health

Social worker to speak about psychiatric service animals


Jane Miller, author of ‘Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power To Transform Lives,’ will give presentations at the University of Toledo on Saturday and Aug. 10.


A clinical social worker who focuses on the health benefits of the human-animal bond is coming to the University of Toledo.

Jane Miller, an Oberlin, Ohio, resident who is the author of Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power To Transform Lives, will hold two free seminars. Ms. Miller is also a certified dog behaviorist consultant.

The first is Saturday and focuses on animal assisted therapy in the social work practice. At the second session, on Aug. 10, Ms. Miller will talk about psychiatric service dogs and emotional support pets. Both sessions are from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ms. Miller’s book details how psychiatric service animals have helped people with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses, said Janet Hoy, assistant professor in the UT department of criminal justice and social work.

Ms. Hoy invited Ms. Miller to speak because of her own interests in these areas, as well as increasing interest from UT’s social work students and the community at large.

“Numerous students, area professionals, and interested individuals have approached me asking for information and resources related to animal-assisted interventions,” Ms. Hoy said. “Our program is absorbing the cost of the training because we want it to be open to all who wish to learn more about the topics. We don’t want cost to be a barrier.”

Ms. Hoy, who is on the board of the Toledo Area Humane Society, has developed social work field placements related to human-animal service areas.

“We’ve had UT social work students placed at Toledo Area Humane Society, Vail Meadows, and Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence,” she said.

The first presentation on Saturday focuses on animal-assisted therapy, which is a formal process in which a health/human service professional purposefully incorporates the therapeutic use of animals within the scope of his or her professional practice.

“While this training is geared toward helping professionals, particularly social workers, who wish to gain skills and knowledge in [animal-assisted therapy], it would be of interest to anyone who may wish to learn more about animal-assisted therapy and benefits of human-animal interaction,” Ms. Hoy said.

The Aug. 10 training will focus on emotional support of pets and psychiatric service dogs.

“Emotional support pets are essentially companion animals who have been deemed therapeutic for a particular individual by a licensed mental health professional,” Ms. Hoy said.

“In contrast, psychiatric service dogs are working companions, highly trained to perform at least two specific tasks that compensate for specific impairments related to an individual’s psychiatric disability.”

This is an emerging area of service dog work, Ms. Hoy said.

“Jane is one of the few people in Ohio who specifically train dogs for this disability,” she said. “Most of existing service dog organizations have not yet incorporated psychiatric service dogs into their work.”

The Aug. 10 training would be of value to professionals and individuals interested in learning more about or seeking to get a psychiatric service dog or emotional support pet, she said.

The trainings are open to the public. Social workers can earn up to six continuing education credits. To register, email or call 419-530-4140.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: or 419-724-6066 or @TanyaIrwin.

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