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The last twenty years have seen increased interest in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activity (AAA). However, there has been little research exploring these interactions as experienced by the animals themselves. In this paper, we bring a “more-than-human” lens to concepts and practices within AAA/T, synthesizing ideas about animal sentience and subjectivity that have emerged within animal geography scholarship and animal welfare science. We draw from empirical work with practitioners involved in donkey-facilitated learning (DFL) to examine the knowledge base of equine facilitators, including their beliefs, opinions, and assumptions about donkeys, their understanding of animal welfare, and their role in DFL. We discuss how knowledge of donkeys is mobilized to ensure more-than-human welfare during DFL; how animals’ “choice” to participate is encouraged and centered; how ideas of nonhuman labor create opportunities for considering more-than-human welfare; and how practitioners advocate for animals and embed practices of care for humans and nonhumans.

Open Access
In: Society & Animals