I joined the Animals and Society Institute because it is the magical place where
of my personal, academic and career interests convene! In this one institute, I am exposed to human service, criminal justice, research, animal welfare, opportunities for learning and access to colleagues local and afar. The four areas of interest dearest to my heart are Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Emotional Support Animal (ESA) competencies, animals’ status as property vs family, and dog-park membership and well-being.
The early aughts of this decade were also the early years of my career as a psychologist, and the first time I had a home with a yard that would allow a canine companion. Knowing I did not want my yellow Labrador Paisley to be home alone while I worked, I trained her to obtain the AKC Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dogs International certifications. We worked together for a decade, and my love of animal assisted therapy became a major career interest.
In 2015, one of my dogs died in a negligent surgery that was covered up by both the treating veterinary clinic and the emergency hospital, and I became painfully educated regarding the debate regarding whether animals are family or property. In our case, our sweet spaniel Morgaine was deemed property; and while the veterinarians involved did receive sanctions to their licenses, we received only what we had paid for her, $50.00. This issue also remains an area of interest.
Shortly after, I began receiving requests for Emotional Support Animal (ESA) “prescriptions” with increasing frequency. People assumed that because I was pro animal-assisted therapy (AAT), I would also be pro ESA, but nothing was further from the truth. With ease, I located a dog trainer, an animal behaviorist and a psychiatric nurse practitioner who were also frustrated and we formed an ESA consortium to address the need for competencies and standards in ESA certification. It was our belief that a proper ESA evaluation would necessitate a team of evaluators – a psychologist for the mental health evaluation, a veterinarian to assess the health of the dog, and a dog trainer or animal behaviorist to assess the both the animal’s response to stressors as travel and dormitory living, and the cohesion of the owner and animal together in stressful situations.
Our ESA consortium submitted a conference proposal outlining our recommendations to each of our professional conferences, and it was accepted by all 3 – The American Psychological Association, The International Forum of Applied Animal Behaviorists, and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. I am proud of the work we’ve done to educate mental health providers about how best to protect themselves, their clients and the animals when asked to write these letters of prescription.
I’m also a member of the American Psychological Association’s Division 17, Section 13 – Human Animal Interaction section, where I chair a group that is nearing completion on an ESA Position Statement to guide members of the American Psychological Association, and a very proud member of Amy Johnson’s AAT Competencies committee, which will soon complete a comprehensive set of competencies to guide animal-assisted therapy practitioners.
Perhaps nearest to my heart, I completed a small pilot study on dog park membership and life satisfaction at the local dog park I visit daily with my three dogs. I knew it was my happy place and I wondered about other people. The mixed method results were too small to be significant but were accepted as a poster at this year’s APA conference, and generated some fun local news interviews.
It is obvious to me that the Animals and Society Institute is my professional home. Having it so close to my physical home is an added bonus! I welcome opportunities to work with others in the future and look forward to meeting you all.
Short Bio and Areas of Interest
Dr. Betz King is a fully licensed psychologist specializing in animal assisted therapy, mood disorders, women’s empowerment and the intersection of psychology and spirituality. She is a member of American Psychological Association divisions 17 (section 13) Human Animal Interactions, and Division 32 – Humanistic Psychology. Dr. King is also a board member of Teacher’s Pet - an intervention program that pairs troubled youth with hard-to-adopt shelter dogs for multi-week workshops. A graduate of The Center for Humanistic Studies, Dr. King is a former faculty member of The Michigan School of Professional Psychology, where she continues as a dissertation advisor. She shares her heart and home with her husband Dr. Kyle Glasgow, Data Director of Common Ground Crisis Services, and their three dogs Willow, Bodhi and Rowan.
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