Online Minor & Certificate Program

Animal-Assisted Health & Education


Bring Animal-Assisted Intervention into your Profession.

In the Animal-Assisted Health & Education Specialist (minor and/or certificate) program at Saint Francis University you can learn to facilitate safe interactions between humans and animals to achieve desired outcomes in a wide variety of environments and with various populations.


SFU students learning about animal-assisted interventions in a hospital setting

Animal-Assisted Health & Education Specialist

Partner with animals in the mission to improve human health and performance.

  • Explore the therapeutic, educational, and interactive integration of animals within various professions.
  • Learn how to design and deliver safe animal-assisted interactions in different environments
  • Complete the program online within 2 years.
  • Prepare for the certification exam offered by the Association of Animal-Assisted Intervention Professionals.
  • Enhance your practice in criminal justice, education, healthcare, psychology, social work, and many other fields.
  • Become an advocate of animal care, ethics, and welfare.

Offered Online: 6 courses, 18-credits, (minor includes hand-on components)

Admissions Paths

Traditional undergraduate students  (minor + certificate)

Working professionals (stand-alone certificate program)

Want to learn more: contact us!

animal assisted interventions

What is Animal-Assisted Intervention?

Animal-assisted interventions is a broad term used to describe working  with various species of specifically trained animals in diverse manners beneficial to humans and animals.  


Therapists, healthcare professionals, and educators can design animal-assisted intervention programs for use in: 

  • educational classrooms 

  • counseling centers 

  • criminal justice system 

  • therapy and rehabilitation clinics 

  • hospitals 

  • hospice care facilities 

  • nursing homes 

  • private practices  

No matter where your interest lies in terms of working with children, adults or an aging population, you can find a fulfilling path to integrating animals into your career. Our focused Animal-Assisted  Health & Education courses  will help you identify your niche within this amazingly diverse practice.



What You’ll Learn in the Animal-Assisted Health & Education Specialist (AAHES) Program

Animal-assisted intervention describes the inclusion of various species of animals in therapy, education, and activities in ways that are beneficial to human sensorimotor, cognitive, communicative, emotional, motivational, and behavioral functions. Desired goals can be met through human-animal interactions that incorporate specially-selected and purposefully trained animals.   

Traditional Undergraduates

Minors who successfully complete the program will automatically earn the certificate in “Animal-Assisted Health & Education Specialist” (“AAHES”) The minor includes online modules as well as a single residency-based, hands-on component: an animal behavior workshop.


Minor:  Course Catalog-23/24

Working Professionals

Professionals who are already working in their chosen field, or those looking to switch careers, can pursue the certificate in “Animal-Assisted Health & Education Specialist” (“AAHES”) completely online as a stand-alone certificate program.


Online Certificate: Course Catalog-23/24 | Plan of Study

  • Program Snapshot
  • Learning Objectives
  • Estimated Completion Time: 

    This is an online 18-credit certificate program that can take 2 years for completion. 

    Courses Required for the Certificate (18 credits): 

    • PSYC 101 - Introduction to Psychology

    • AAHE 201 - Introduction to Animal Assisted-Health & Education 

    • AAHE 301 - The Animal Partner in Animal-Assisted Health and Education 

    • AAHE 302 - The Human Partner in Animal-Assisted Health and Education 

    • AAHE 401 - Best Practices in Animal-Assisted Health & Education 

    • AAHE 402 - Scientific Assessment of Animal-Assisted Health & Education + Capstone 

    Download a Plan of Study

  • Upon the successful completion of the program, students will be able to apply their acquired knowledge to the design and delivery of safe and productive animal-assisted interactions in different environments (e.g., educational classrooms, clinics, hospitals or hospices, counseling centers, nursing homes, criminal justice system, private practices) and with a variety of populations (e.g., children, youth, elderly), aiming to achieve desired outcomes and act as ambassadors of animal care and welfare. 
    • Knowledge of general animal assisted interventions 

    • Knowledge of basic animal behavior 

    • Application of basic animal training using positive reinforcement methods 

    • Knowledge and application of risk reduction in animal-assisted interventions 

    • Application of intentional practice through session planning in animal-assisted interventions 

    • Knowledge and application of methods used for assessment, interpretation and use of animals’ responses in meaningful ways 

    • Scientific inquiry, social responsibility and communication skills 

    • Socio-cultural and international awareness 

    • Personal development, career planning and educational development 

Meet the Faculty

faculty in Saint Francis University's Animal Assisted Health and Education Specialist program

Dr. Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg (Program Lead)

Dr. Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the coordinator for the Animal-Assisted Health & Education program coordinator. She teaches courses such as Learning, Animal Minds, and Canine Learning and Behavior. As a researcher, she focuses on the human-animal bond, shelter-animals' rehabilitation and well-being, and animal learning and behavior. Her research has been published in sources such as the "Journal of Animal Applied Welfare Science" and "Career Paths in Animal-Assisted Interactions." Dr. Flaisher-Grinberg is committed to instructional practices that allow students to train shelter dogs and shelter kittens in the classroom and on campus.

Dr. Gina Fisher Caldwell

Dr. Gina Fisher Caldwell is a professional canine behaviorist focusing on obedience, socialization, and therapy dog classes. Her training philosophy uses relationship-based methods to connect, communicate, and develop a strong commitment with your dog. She is an American Kennel Club and Pet Partners therapy animal teams evaluator and has been a registered therapy dog handler with Pet Partners since 2014. Dr. Caldwell also serves as a subject matter expert on the Pet Partners Human-Animal Bond Advisory Board. She played a key role in formalizing the creation of the Association of Animal-Assisted Intervention Professionals. As an Associate Curator at Georgia Aquarium, she collaborated with senior leadership to develop, institute, lead and facilitate the highest animal standards and welfare goals. She has over 25 years of experience in the behavioral science and zoological field, working with various species while specializing in otter care. Dr. Caldwell teaches as an adjunct professor of psychology and animal behavior at several colleges.

Dr. Jean Kirnan

Dr. Jean Kirnan is a Professor of Psychology at the College of New Jersey, where she has taught for over 35 years. She completed her doctoral degree in Psychometrics at Fordham University in New York and brings a focus of measurement and assessment to her teaching, consulting, and research. While her early career focused on Industrial/Organizational (I/O) applications of measurement, her interests have expanded to program evaluation with community partners and research on the practices and outcomes of Animal-Assisted Initiatives. Kirnan has presented at conferences and published articles and book chapters on emotional support animals and dog-assisted literacy programs. Her current research focuses on the integration of dogs into educational settings. For over 15 years, Kirnan has volunteered in her community with her certified therapy dogs visiting senior assisted living facilities and schools.

Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S, C-AAIS

Tara Moser is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia, Illinois, and Colorado. She is also a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, a Qualified Clinical Supervisor in Florida, and a Certified Animal Assisted Intervention Specialist. Moser owns Delta Family Counseling, LLC, a group mental health practice in Florida where she and her teams of humans, canines, and hamsters provide expressive-based therapy for individual and family therapeutic needs. They see clients of all ages, including children as young as 2 years old. Moser is also the founder and lead counselor for a non-profit that hosts week-long day camps that combine working with rescue dogs to make them better suited for adoption and helping children with social and emotional needs. In addition, Moser has published several articles, teaches workshops across the United States, co-authored a children's book, has taught as an adjunct for several universities, and serves on many boards and volunteer roles in various non-profits focused on mental health and animals.


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Contact Us

If you would like to chat about whether the Animal-Assisted Heath & Education Specialist program may be a good fit for you, please feel free to reach out.


Dr. Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg
Program Lead, Associate Professor, Psychology