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Institute for Human-Animal Connection

Animals & Human Health Certificate

The Animals and Human Health (AHH) professional development certificate program of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection focuses on animal-assisted therapy, activities and learning. It includes three online courses and one course taught on the University of Denver campus.

If you are new to the field of human-animal interactions, you may be interested in our four-week, online Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions course. The Orientation course and Animals and Human Health Certificate pair nicely together to educate professionals and prepare them to ethically integrate animals into their career or volunteer work.

About animal-assisted interventions

Animals play a critical role in helping people live healthy lives.  Animal-assisted therapy, activities and learning demonstrate how the human-animal bond can bring about deep and lasting social, emotional, cognitive, physical, spiritual and psychological changes.

Animal-assisted therapy, activities and learning are found in many settings.  For example:

  • As part of his physical therapy, a man recovering from a stroke regains the use of his arm through playing "fetch" with a specially screened and trained dog.
  • An at-risk teen refuses traditional therapy, but begins to explore personal issues through an equine-facilitated mental health program.
  • A child who is a victim of sexual abuse learns to trust and connect with people by first learning to trust and connect with an animal.

The applications of animal-assisted therapy, activities and learning require that those delivering the interventions are knowledgeable, trained and have the expertise necessary to attend to the needs of both the people and the animals involved.


Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions—5 CEUs

Course Description:

The Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions professional development course provides an introduction to the field of human-animal interactions, including topics addressing the impact of the human-animal bond across lifespans, animal-assisted interventions (including animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy), and considerations for the welfare of working animals.

This online, four-week course is intended for those interested in the Animals and Human Health (AHH) certificate program who have limited or no experience with animal-assisted interventions and/or for those who would like a general overview of the impact animals have on human health both psychologically and physiologically. The course can serve as a stand-alone overview or as an introduction to concepts and terminology central to the AHH certificate program.  A variety of reading, writing, technology- and community-based assignments will serve as the basis of learning.

General Overview:

Week 1:  Human-animal bond throughout the lifespan including physiological and psychological impacts
Week 2:  Overview and basic understanding of various service animals, psychiatric service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals
Week 3:  Animal-assisted interventions: Animal-assisted activities and terminology
Week 4:  Animal-assisted interventions: Animal-assisted therapy


To enroll in the Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions course, participants must have earned a Bachelor's degree from an accredited 4-year college or university.

Enrollment is capped at 15 students per course.

Application and Fees:

Participants apply online using the AHH application for a $25 fee, notating their interest in the Orientation course accordingly. Upon acceptance, participants will receive further information to register and pay online through the University of Denver's Elevate Registration system.  Click here to apply .

The Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions course fee is $500.

Upcoming Dates:

2020-1 Orientation (2/1/20 - 2/29/20)

2020-2 Orientation (4/18/20 - 5/16/20)

2020-3 Orientation (8/1/20 - 8/29/20)

2020-4 Orientation (10/24/20 - 11/21/20)

AHH Learning objectives 

Students who successfully complete the Animals and Human Health Certificate will:

  • demonstrate skill and expertise regarding the clinical applications of human-animal interactions;
  • understand how the effects of these methods can be demonstrated across age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and life condition, and how animal-assisted interventions can be utilized by a wide variety of professionals;
  • learn to create and implement high-quality animal-assisted programs.

Format and technical requirements

The Animals and Human Health Certificate program requires completion of all courses listed below. Students progress through three online courses with a group of peers, forming cohorts, then meet face-to-face in Denver for the Capstone session.

Courses utilize a variety of learning methods including readings, written assignments, community/experiential activities, videos and discussion forums. Students may complete all coursework at their convenience, within specified due dates. Experiential activities are incorporated into each course and require students to work in the community, away from the computer.

Instructors offer guidance, individualized weekly feedback to each student and participate in online discussion forums.

A computer with high-speed Internet access and word-processing software (Microsoft Word) is required, along with strong computer skills, experience and comfort.  Specific web browser and operating system requirements can be found here.

For more information about what is needed to be successful in the AHH Certificate, please reach out to Arielle Giddens, Professional Development Program Coordinator, at: [email protected]

AHH Program fees and payment methods

The certificate program fee is $3,500, and registration constitutes an agreement to pay the non-refundable program fee in full. There is also a one-time, non-refundable application fee of $25, due at the time of application.

Payment may be made in full or in installments as follows:

  • $1,400 before the Core course begins and to secure your spot in the cohort
  • $1050 before the Applications of AAI course begins
  • $1050 before the Animal Partners in AAI course begins

Payments are made online by credit/debit card. Special arrangements can be made for third-party payers.

AHH Application and enrollment

To enroll in the Animals and Human Health Certificate program, you must have earned a Bachelor's degree from an accredited 4-year college or university, or have had equivalent experience in the animal-assisted field. If you meet this requirement, please apply online by clicking here.

Enrollment is capped at 13 students per cohort. Due to the high volume of applications submitted and the format of the program, applicants are placed on an active wait list once their applications are submitted, reviewed and accepted. Applicants will be notified via e-mail once they are accepted into the certificate program and eligible for enrollment into a cohort. When registration dates are set for each cohort, active applicants on the wait list will receive detailed registration and payment information via e-mail.

You must complete all courses within the same cohort to earn the certificate and all courses must be taken in sequence.

AHH Cohort Dates

     2019 Cohort 3 (Cohort Full)

  • Core Course: 6/8/19 - 8/10/19
  • Applications: 8/24/19 - 10/12/19
  • Animal Partners: 10/26/19 - 12/14/19
  • Capstone: 1/23/20 - 1/24/20

  2019 Cohort 4 (Cohort Full)

  • Core Course: 9/28/19 - 11/23/19
  • Applications: 1/4/20 - 2/15/20
  • Animal Partners: 2/29/20 - 4/11/20
  • Capstone: 5/21/20 - 5/22/20

 2020 Cohort 1 (Registration opening in October 2019)

  • Core Course: 1/11/20 - 3/7/20
  • Applications: 3/21/20 - 5/9/20
  • Animal Partners: 5/30/20 - 7/18/20
  • Capstone: 8/20/20 - 8/21/20

  2020 Cohort 2 

  • Core Course: 3/21/20 - 5/23/20
  • Applications: 6/6/20 - 7/25/20
  • Animal Partners: 8/8/20 - 9/26/20
  • Capstone: 11/5/20 - 11/6/20

  2020 Cohort 3 

  • Core Course: 5/30/20 - 8/1/20
  • Applications: 8/22/20 - 10/10/20
  • Animal Partners: 10/24/20 - 12/12/20
  • Capstone: 1/28/21 - 1/29/21

  2020 Cohort 4 

  • Core Course: 9/19/20 - 11/14/20
  • Applications: 1/9/21 - 2/20/21
  • Animal Partners: 3/6/21 - 4/24/21
  • Capstone: 5/20/21 - 5/21/21


Core Course - Introduction - 11 CEUs

This course offers an in-depth introduction to animal-assisted therapy, activities and learning including history, theory and research, ethics, professions and applications utilizing animal-assisted interventions, overview of animal information and issues, evaluation and administration.

Applications of Animal-Assisted Interventions - 8 CEUs

This course covers the populations (individuals and groups of all ages) with whom animal-assisted interventions are often employed, as well as typical educational, mental health, behavioral, medical and health care settings. The course also covers effective management and administration of animal-assisted programs. Students will have the opportunity to tailor certain assignments to their specific interest areas.

Animal Partners in Animal-Assisted Interventions - 8 CEUs

This course covers the many species that can participate in animal-assisted interventions, as well as issues that must be addressed so that client outcomes are achieved at the same time animal welfare is protected. Topics include selection, training, screening, care, protection, ongoing monitoring and overall well-being of animals, as well as effective program management and administration related to the inclusion of animals.  Students will have the opportunity to tailor certain assignments to their specific interest areas.

Capstone Session - 8 CEUs

Students and faculty gather at the University of Denver campus to deliver and discuss capstone presentations integrating all certificate coursework and activities and applying them to the students' individual interests. The session also includes dialogue with experts in the field of human-animal interactions, group experiential work and demonstration and analysis of animal-assisted interventions. Students will benefit from extensive interaction with practitioners from a wide variety of professions and locations.  (Travel and lodging expenses are the responsibility of the student).

Program faculty

  • Molly DePrekel, MA, LP
  • Erica Elvove, MSW
  • Arielle Giddens, MSW
  • Ann Howie, MSW, LICSW
  • Alison Leslie, MSW, LCSW
  • Jen Pearson, MSW, LMSW
  • Sheryl Pierre, PhD
  • Philip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW
  • Susan Teumer, MA

Additional information

For more information, please contact Arielle Giddens, Professional Development Program Coordinator, at: [email protected]