Attendees of the annual ISAZ conference spent several days considering multidisciplinary approaches to HAI research involving both behavioral and social sciences. Psychology, social psychology, anthropology, psychiatry, and neuroscience were all key focal points. Participants explored and shared insight on research topics including:
– The notion of empathy in the study of human-animal interaction
– Values to be respected when running HAI programs
– The cultural approach to HAI.

Research was also considered during the IAHAIO conference, however it was primarily viewed with regard to field work. It is important to effectively link research and fieldwork, both to ensure the legitimacy of the latter and to overcome the limitations of isolated theory or practice. Encouragingly, the 177 oral, poster, and workshop presentations offered proof that numerous research/field connections already exist, and they are enriching HAI practices and study in the 22 countries represented at the Paris event.

Further, the IAHAIO conference highlighted developing trends in HAI application. Among them, children’s education and development stands out as an area where positive interaction with animals can have a strong impact. In addition, the conference offered acknowledgement of a noteworthy advance in HAI: pets and familiar animals have now been recognized by most professions and public service institutions as a significant source of aide for people suffering from social, physical, intellectual, sensorial, and psychic handicaps.
In both Barcelona and Paris, there was consensus. The future of HAI depends on a continued research effort as well as on the development and deployment of programs and projects run by well-trained professionals who use rigorous methodologies. It is also critical for all those involved to abide by an irreproachable code of ethics when dealing with the people and the animals involved in a HAI initiative.

Boris Albrecht
Fondation A et P Sommer, Paris