Quality assurance

The word ‘quality’ is used in the most varied of contexts and has, unfortunately, become a term that is often misunderstood and, although frequently employed, there is no handy definition.

We propose adapting the 1990 definition by the American Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organisations (recognised within the health service) as follows for the needs of animal-assisted therapy:

“Quality is the level of probability of achieving the desired effects for clients or patients, and preventing unwanted effects, using animal-assisted interventions and given the current state of knowledge.”

The following can be derived from this definition:

  • the results of animal-assisted interventions must be capable of being unambiguously assigned to particular project, intervention or mediation processes (effectiveness);
  • although the goal-driven orientation of animal-assisted interventions can be described from a variety of perspectives (that of the user, supplier, relations, and cost-bearer, for example), the main focus is on the client’s perspective (client-orientation);
  • the need to also consider that clients are exposed to undesirable effects of animal-assisted interventions, e.g. side effects, complications, accidents and over-therapy;
  • the importance of quality indicators so that the various dimensions of quality can be assessed and measured and can be examined as a component of quality assurance, quality management and evaluation (measurability);
  • the necessity of orienting oneself on the particular current state-of-the-art, i.e. further developing of quality (quality development);
  • ensuring high ethical principles in the treatment of animals (animal ethics).


Quality can be divided up into structural, process, results and planning quality.

  • Structural quality consists of personnel, financial and technical facilities as well as administrative, legal and organisational conditions.
  • Process quality refers to the implementation of projects, measures or specific interventions, their co-ordination, and client orientation.
  • Results quality consists of the changes in health, quality of life, personal resources, personality development or even client satisfaction brought about by the animal-assisted intervention.
  • Planning quality refers to, among other things, the questions of whether the need for animal-assisted interventions has been objectively ascertained and the need of the target group determined; whether previous experience from other projects has been sufficiently taken into account and scientific principles have been applied; and whether the intervention has been developed in line with current theory.

ESAAT has developed comprehensive quality principles that can be downloaded from the column on the right.

Further informations: Guidelines on quality assurance