A multidisciplinar volunteer org that provides assistance dogs as resources to increase independence and self esteem levels of those in need.
ANIMAS is a non-profit association credited in several reference networks linked to Assistance Animals.
ANIMAS was created from the need to help people in specially vulnerable groups (people with disabilities, children, elderly) to have the help and independence they needed, and also to develop self-realization activities. The educational and therapeutic value of Animal Assisted Activities, Education and Therapy is widely accepted and encouraged. Nevertheless, there were no public structures that provided this kind of support.

ANIMAS is recognized with the status of Public Utility, with a multidisciplinary volunteer team who: donate assistance dogs; carry out training actions and scientific research work; promote programs of Animal-Assisted Interventions.
The main stakeholders are: people with disabilities; volunteers and health and education professionals who wish to implement Animal Assisted Intervention programs in the future.

This GP was especially relevant in the context of HELIUM because it presented an innovative approach to the organisational model of health and care providing services. ANIMAS also has a close relationship to academia and is involved in several research projects that constantly produce new innovative outputs in the field of healthcare.

Resources needed

On what comes to financial expenses, there’s 3 full-time employees (whose wages sum up a total of about 40.000 €/year) and the other resources are usually free, relying on donations, membership fees and volunteer work.

Evidence of success

On patients with mental disorders, studies have proven the assistance provided by ANIMAS decreases the consumption of medication, and the practice is now disseminated within the whole country, when it started locally.
Since 2002, the association has placed 18 Assistance Dogs with families with special needs, completely cost-free. It has also staged dozens of Animal Assisted Activities and Assisted Education sessions with children and elderly people.

Difficulties encountered

The lack of financial support is a challenge and the work’s consistency might get compromised: there’s several volunteers for an individual, since they all take turns to not to get overloaded.
Lessons learned: the benefits on the population are clear and visible, to be continued and improved.

Potential for learning or transfer

This practice can occur within any area where the same problems prevail: there’s actually an association which has replicated exactly the same project in the UK (Dogs for Good), after visiting ANIMAS’ installations.
The project does not rely on a huge amount of financial funds, and the employees can train other potential volunteers on using assistance dogs for support of handicap, elder people or autistic children.

We encourage public authorities to replicate this model in their regions, since it has proven success and long term sustainability, requiring limited funding - since the animals are donated by breeders, and all staff is volunteer - while having an incredible impact in the wellbeing, and mental of physical health of the population (particularly highly susceptible groups).
Main institution
ANIMAS – Associação Portuguesa para a Intervenção com Animais de Ajuda Social
Norte, Portugal
Start Date
May 2002
End Date


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