Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer M. Foster

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Hovestadt

Third Advisor

Dr. Angela M. Moe


jail, animal-assisted crisis response program, crisis response, justice system


A crisis state is often the result of being admitted to jail, due to the catastrophic impact incarceration can have on personal and professional lives. Unlike other studies, the present study focuses on inmates in jail rather than in prison. To address jail inmates in a crisis state, the current best practice is suicide prevention, which does not effectively consider the needs of jail inmates. Recently emerging in the literature is the use of animal-assisted crisis response (AACR) to serve individuals experiencing a crisis. There is a lack of research on the use of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) with the population of jail inmates. This study explores the experiences of jail inmates, correctional officers, and AACR handlers participating in an AACR program in order to address the paucity of literature concerning AAIs with jail inmates and the needs of jail inmates, with a goal of providing the counseling field with creative crisis interventions for vulnerable populations to improve the preparedness and effectiveness of counselors.

This case study research collected data through 2 field observations and semi-structured interviews with 15 jail inmates, 5 correctional officers, and 3 AACR handlers, for a total of 23 interview participants (26% female, 74% male; 83% white, 9% African American, 4% Latino, 4% Pacific Islander). Thick, rich description and a thematic content analysis of transcribed interviews reveals 3 meta-themes and 7 themes with 19 subthemes. The three meta-themes identified in this study are: (1) Stressful Jail Environment, (2) Success of Program, and (3) Connection with Others. The seven additional themes and subthemes present in the data are: (1) Program Awareness; (2) Individual Change: (2.1) Attitudinal, (2.2) Behavioral, (2.3) Emotional, (2.4) Physical; (3) Dog’s Effect: (3.1) Companionship, (3.2) Acceptance, (3.3) Memories, (3.4) Physical Touch; (4) Humanity: (4.1) Normalcy, (4.2) Jail Programming, (4.3) Safety; (5) Inmate Behavior: (5.1) Mental Health Concerns, (5.2) Bravado; (6) Program Development: (6.1) Barriers, (6.2) Personal Relationships, (6.3) Professional Recruitment; and (7) Crisis Work: (7.1) Advanced Training, (7.2) Varied Settings, (7.3) Wellbeing of Dog. The findings of this study contribute to a dearth of research in the counseling field regarding the needs of jail inmates and the use of AACR as an adjunct to crisis interventions. The implications for communities, counselors-in-training, and counselor educators are discussed. The need for continued research in the counseling field with regard to jail inmates and AAIs is also delineated.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access