Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR) is a new field that operates in collaboration with other crisis services to support people affected by a traumatic event. Essentially it
consists of an animal and human handler team specifically trained in animal therapy, animal assisted crisis response and human crisis intervention. Animals, in particular dogs, have been used in the helping professions since the 19th century with research indicating that they are beneficial for human psycho-social conditions and bio-physical wellbeing. The AACR teams work with crisis counsellors and other professionals during the recovery phase of a crisis in order to assist those affected. AACR is newly emerging in the USA, only uses dogs and as yet is uninitiated in Australia. Currently there is no known research in this field. The present study interviewed AACR dog handlers and crisis counsellors who have worked with AACR teams in the field. The primary aim of the study was to investigate the parameters under which AACR is instigated, delivered and of benefit to the crisis counselling field. The secondary aim was to explore meanings that participants attribute to AACR dogs as a result of human-dog interactions in the field. A qualitative research design was used with constructivism as its underlying paradigm and symbolic interactionism to inform its methodology. All data were collected in
participant naturalistic settings and involved a multi-method approach that entailed semi structured interviews, observational field trips, visual data (photos) of AACR dogs,
researcher reflexivity journal and a participant socio-demographic questionnaire. Purposive and snowball sampling techniques were used and resulted in a total sample size of thirty participants. Data analyses incorporated participant verification of interview transcripts, thematic analysis, QSR NVivo 10 and a data advisory panel Significant themes to emerge from the data were titled: The nature of crisis, symbolic meanings given to dogs, and working like a dog. Overall findings suggest that AACR dogs are seen and operate, as extensions of crisis counselling respondents. Further research is recommended into AACR as a potential modality for crisis response work. The development of AACR and implications within the Australian context are also discussed.