In the early eighties human-animal interaction was still regarded as a relatively new field of study. Since then, various disciplines got involved through research, publications, projects and scientific meetings. Although the independent development of the study field was hindered by fragmentation and specialization, important contributions were made by the different disciplines. An unique characteristic of human-animal interaction as field of study is the combination between the human sciences and natural sciences. The need for some form of integration and openness between the sciences developed. This combination not only offers opportunities but set specific demands for multidisciplinary co-operation. The study field of human-animal interaction can be enriched and broadened through co-operation between disciplines as each discipline have specialized knowledge and skills available to enhance the synergistic effect. The aim of this study is to explore the multidisciplinary nature of the study field, the involvement of Social Work in the multidisciplinary team, points of departure for multidisciplinary co-operation, and the independent nature of the study field. Twenty three disciplines were identified that are involved in the study field, namely: Anthropology&Archeology, Occupational Therapy, Architecture, Marketing, Philosophy, Physiology, Physiotherapy, Medicine, Journalism, Communication Pathology, Criminology, Art, Social Work, Education, Psychiatry, Public Health, Law, Psychology, Sociology, Town&Regional Planning, Theology, Veterinary Science and Nursing. Involvement varies from direct involvement with the implementation of programmes; indirect involvement as for example in an advisory capacity; contributing to the fundamental view points regarding the human-animal bond; and the promoting of a positive image of human-animal interaction. The role of Social Work in the study field can be divided into five main areas, namely: the aim of social work intervention, e.g. improving quality of life; the roles of the social worker, e.g. facilitator; target groups in Social Work, e.g. children and the elderly; needs of people, e.g. alleviating loneliness and depression; and approaches towards service rendering, e.g. developmental Social Work. The most important principles of multidisciplinary co-operation in the study field are stated as: aspiration to achieve the same goal, joint research, a comprehensive description of the nature and extent of the involvement of each discipline, knowledge of all the other discipline's involvement, as well as participation in human-animal interaction programmes. The independence of human-animal interaction as study field can be measured against the following seven criteria: scientific organizations, scientific meetings, publications, academic training- and educational programmes, research, programmes and projects in practice, and multidisciplinary co-operation. A strategy to enhance human-animal interaction as independent, multidisciplinary study field in South Africa is presented according to seven decision-making areas used in the marketing of services. These decision making areas include: product-(service)decisions, price decisions, place decisions, promotional decisions, personnel decisions and presentation decisions. As social workers focus on the needs of the community and the need to interact with companion animals is one of these needs, social workers can play an important role in achieving the strategic goals of leading the study field of human-animal interaction to independence.
Dissertation (DPhil (Social Work))--University of Pretoria, 2004.