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Using the VSW Experience to Close the “PAWS Gap” in Social Work Training and Practice

Room A

1 CE Hour

Presented By

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    In-Person, Live Webinar



The VSW experience has made remarkable progress. But fewer than 3% of U.S. Schools of Social Work include human-animal interactions in the curriculum, and VSWs represent only .05% of the total U.S. social work profession; these figures are undoubtedly even lower in other countries. We need to close this “PAWS Gap” by having more social workers and schools address People and Animals’ Wellness and Safety. We can do this through nine emerging opportunities based on the VSW model that can make pet-inclusive social work training and practice more widely accepted. By using the lessons learned from VSW, social workers can apply “the 3-Rs” – Recognition, Response and Referral – to address The Link between animal abuse and human violence and other human-animal considerations impacting clients’ well-being, risk and resiliency factors, decision-making, and quality of life.


This presentation will describe six reasons why all social workers should be cognizant of human-animal relationships. It will discuss ways to put these concepts into practice in such fields as child welfare, domestic violence, animal shelters, clinical practice, public policy advocacy, and social work with older populations and individuals who are disabled or homeless. Species-spanning social work – in the veterinary clinic and beyond – holds tremendous promise for expanding the profession’s legacy in social and environmental justice, advocacy, facilitating collaborative community change, and protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Learn how including human-animal relationships within the family genogram in social work training and practice can better enhance assessments and interventions to identify barriers and strengths impacting clients’ decision-making, quality of life and well-being.

  • Review nine potential social work career opportunities that build upon the VSW experience to expand human-animal relationship awareness throughout social work education and practice.

  • Understand six reasons why addressing human-animal relationships should be implemented more widely as part of social work’s commitment to social justice and fighting oppression and as opportunities for research, practice, advocacy, and advancing public policy.

CE Policy
This course is fiscally sponsored by International Association of Veterinary Social Work . There may be potential biases or conflicts of interest inherent to this relationship, and it must be disclosed to participants. These conflicts of interest have no bearing on the course content and have been resolved.
Phil Arkow
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