Prestigious RSPCA scholarship will help examine welfare of Australian therapy dogs

22 December 2021

A CQUniversity researcher has been awarded a prestigious RSPCA scholarship that will help examine the welfare of Australian therapy dogs.

Vijay Rawat was awarded the 2021 RSPCA Australia Alan White Scholarship for Animal Welfare' worth $9588.

"This is an extremely competitive scholarship and only two people were awarded one this year'" Mr Rawat said.

"I was thrilled to receive the scholarship - it has provided me an opportunity to lead a project which is clearly also an area of importance for the RSPCA."

Mr Rawat is currently conducting research where he is examining the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy for mental health outcomes for humans.

"When the RSPCA scholarship applications opened' I thought it was a good opportunity which would enable me to examine the 'other side of the coin' – relating to the welfare considerations that should be given to animals incorporated into therapy."

The scholarship will be used to support Mr Rawat's project Working like a dog: Examining the standards and practices related to the welfare of Australian therapy-dogs.

"The project aims to conduct a national survey of Australian therapy-dog organisations to assess their standards and practices for ensuring the welfare of therapy-dogs'" Mr Rawat said.

The survey will contribute to answering two research questions including what are the standards and practices implemented by organisations to safeguard the welfare of therapy-dogs' and how do the rates of implemented standards and practices compare to best-practice guidelines?

The Melbourne-based researcher said studies from overseas had shown that therapy programs had the propensity to adversely impact on therapy-dog welfare.

Mr Rawat said the ultimate aim of the research would be to identify welfare-related standards and practices which are' and are not' implemented by therapy-dog organisations - ultimately highlighting areas for improvement to ensure the welfare of therapy-dogs.

"By benchmarking standards and practices to international best-practice guidelines these findings will assist in the development of robust welfare guidelines for Australian therapy-dog organisations."

Mr Rawat's final report is due to the RSPCA in December 2022.