Crisis Intervention & Response Canines
IHABS has created the Crisis Intervention & Response Canines program to provide specially trained human-canine response teams to those impacted by crises, trauma, and disasters. Our program aims to build on current evidence-based practices seeking to address the need of crisis intervention and response services within the state of Iowa via the human-animal bond and, partnerships with state and community organizations. We are members of the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council.
Although recent usage of the term animal-assisted crisis response (AACR) has broadly included crisis intervention, IHABS defines the terms related but separate. We do this in order to better inform the public, and potential clients or partners, of the function, purpose, and goal of each. These definitions are more focused on the location and the environment in which the interaction could occur. In accordance with current evidenced-based practices, defining the response environment as potentially distinct from the intervention environment is important to ensure the individual needs are met of each person or organization we serve. As we become more informed of the needs of Iowa and crisis intervention technologies, therapies, and services, our definitions and goals may also transform to better suite the needs of Iowa communities.
Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR): Intended to serve as a crisis intervention after traumatic incidents such as natural disasters or emergency situations in order to reduce stress, provide comfort, and ensure safety, recovery and support while also opening the lines of communication between the individual(s) impacted, healthcare professionals, first responders, and local government and community services. The AACR practitioners and/or animal handlers are specifically trained to address emotional distress an individual may experience after a traumatic incident. AACR typically falls under animal assisted activities volunteering.
Animal Assisted Crisis Intervention (AACI): A planned intervention with the goal of providing assistance and support to individuals impacted by a mental and/or behavioral health crisis. The AACI practitioners and/or animal handlers are specially trained, credentialed, and often licensed professionals working within the specific environment/population in which in the intervention will be provided; this may include trauma-informed care, grief support, victim counseling, behavioral intervention, memory support, etc. The interactions between the canine team and individual may be recorded, measured, and documented as a form of animal assisted therapy and/or per the needs of a behavior or care plan in order to improve overall well-being.
IHABS's AACI & AACR Mission: IHABS, assisted by local community and state organizations, creates, maintains, and upholds standards and certification processes for crisis intervention & response canine teams. IHABS evaluates and screens & selects exceptional registered therapy dog teams (registered through our Animal Therapy Program) to begin the crisis intervention and response canine certification process. Through specialized training classes, lessons, and supervision, teams will be ready to complete the certification process. IHABS organizes required online & in-person trainings needed by teams to meet the requirements for certification. IHABS is the primary point of contact between services and organizations requesting services and the qualified team and serves as a continual resource & support system for certified teams. We will be advocates for professionalization and legitimization of AACI & AACR, upholding and promoting standards, ensuring all teams that wish to pursue certification are expertly trained and prepared.
To learn more about IHABS's program contact or visit our class offerings page to register for orientation and class opportunities.
Standards: IHABS has partnered with professionals in mental health, human services, emergency response, and survivor advocacy to create standards tailored specifically to the needs of Iowa's populations. These standards exceed national recommendations for AACI/AACR services and volunteerism. All teams wanting to certify as a crisis intervention & response canine team, or support team, with IHABS will need to meet (and exceed) these standards which include obtaining/maintaining certifications in Psychological First Aid, Mental Health First Aid, and CPR/First Aid as well as coursework in Behavioral Health Reactions, Creating Safe Scenes, stress management, coping with grief and loss, and the disaster and critical incident environment. All teams and support individuals must complete and pass a written exam. All canines are required to be experienced registered therapy dogs with IHABS, and meet all requirements of the Therapy Animal Program, before they can complete training, assessments, and evaluations to become a certified crisis intervention & response canines.
Requirements for certification:
-Canine teams: All volunteer canine teams will need to meet the requirements to become a registered therapy dog team with IHABS before continuing on to add certification as a crisis intervention and response canine team. See our Therapy Animal Program page for more information. Both ends of the leash are required to complete all aspects of the program including classes (Therapy Dog Level 1 & Intro to AACI/ACCR), certifications and coursework, canine team evaluation, and a written exam. Once certified, each team will also complete yearly requirements for continuing education in order to maintain certification.
- Support teams: All individual volunteers (without a canine) are required to complete orientation, all certifications and coursework, and a written exam. Once certified, each support team will also complete yearly requirements for continuing education in order to maintain certification.
To have certified crisis intervention & response canines come to your location or assist your organization contact our Executive Director at or call 515-724-8669
To find out how you can support the IHABS mission and our volunteer teams through donations and sponsorships please contact our Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.