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The P.A.C.E. Model™ for Animal-Assisted Interactions (AAI)

The P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI (formerly named Tri-Balance Model™) (Bailey, 2013)

provides a framework that can be used to assess rigor, goals and objectives, risk management,

and precautions in each AAI session, and is an illustration of the ever-changing, dynamic

relationship that happens during AAI sessions. The P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI is also a method

to provide oversight to the design, implementation, and evaluation of AAI sessions.


There are four components present in every AAI session and are represented by colored balls

in the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI (see diagram, last page). The four components are practitioner,

animal, client, and environment, and together, they set the pace for AAI sessions.

Practitioner – The identified person(s) who plans, leads, and holds responsibility for his

or her AAI sessions.

Animal – The identified animal(s) that is assisting in facilitating AAI services.

Client – The identified person(s) who is receiving AAI services and may also be listed as

a participant, student, members of a group, family, or individual.

Environment – The identified location where AAI services are held, as well as the greater

environmental milieu.

Connecting Lines between Components

Each of the four components has a relationship to each other, and these relationships are

signified by the lines drawn between each of the components. Although drawn as such in this

two-dimensional model, it is important to note this line is not static in its length, strength, or

consistency and is constantly changing to reflect the connection between each pair of


Reciprocal Interactions

The process and results created by the four components in the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI

– practitioner, client, environment, and animal – is called reciprocal because there is a constant

give-and-take throughout the AAI session.

Qualities of Competence (QOC)

Each component of the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI brings a level of skill or training to

each AAI session called Quality of Competence or QOC. The QOC is represented as a gauge,

like the fuel level in a car, with a “plus” sign and “minus” sign, and is not meant to denote

“good” or “bad”. The greater the competence each component brings to the AAI session, the

higher that component is listed on the gauge. Furthermore, a component’s QOC can be

strengthened or weakened if the relationship it shares with another component is similarly strong

or weak.


The concept of balance in the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI does not mean equality, rather,

it is the assessment of each component’s QOC and the endeavor to fit components together that

complement each other, not produce a deficit in safety, and provide a level of optimal benefit for

all involved in AAI sessions.

Areas of consideration for each component of the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI

Practitioner – Depending on the overall needs of the identified client, animal, and

environment, individuals providing AAI sessions may include more than one person and

more than one professional discipline. Sometimes, a facility is highly unstable and some

practitioners may serve as milieu support. Because they are employed at this facility and

can anticipate the slightest changes or concerns, their QOC for the environment is high

and this helps to balance the QOC for the other practitioner. Together, both can attend to

the animal(s), client(s), and environment with integrity.

Animal – One size does not fit all; therefore, best practices calls for the “identified

animal” to have specific training and temperament suited for the goals and objectives of

each AAI session. Occasionally, animals that are not identified and that are not trained

will become part of AAI sessions and can be considered ad hoc program animals. Such

ad hoc program animals happen when observing the larger milieu of the AAI session,

when the AAI session takes place outside, or when working in a setting where multiple

other animals reside, like a horse barn or dog training center. Like with practitioners,

these ad hoc program animals are considered milieu support and will impact the overall

AAI session.

Client – Whether individual or group, the client has a tremendous amount of leverage in

changing the reciprocal interaction of the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI. All AAI sessions

start and end with the client in mind and it is because of the client’s identified and

unidentified needs that the AAI session exists in the first place.

Environment – Examples of “identified locations” may be a horse stall, training center,

hospital room, chicken coop, or therapy office. The larger milieu of these areas would

include the natural world – both indoors and outside – in which each of these locations

exist. For example, factors to consider with a hospital room would include how recently

was the room cleaned, is the room near a busy nursing station, is the room well-lit or

have a window, and is there an option to adjust the room’s temperature.

Applying the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI: Case example

A practitioner, Sophie, has raised and shown Boer goats for 15 years and currently has a

small herd on her hobby farm. She is enrolled in an undergraduate degree in nursing. Her

required internship matches her with a 30-bed treatment facility for adolescents with eating

disorders. Over her year-long clinical internship, she monitors the health of all in-patient clients

involved in weekly fieldtrips to a working farm where they complete farm chores, groom

animals, tend the garden and crops, and learn basic animal husbandry. This working farm

includes horses, llamas, sheep, goats, geese, and rabbits. The owners of the working farm have

trained the llamas and goats to drive, and the rabbits to walk on a harness so they can make

monthly visits to a local nursing home facility. Upon receiving her degree and passing the

licensure exam to be a registered nurse, Sophie is hired by the eating-disorders center and is

given the opportunity to expand the current AAI program for patients in the day-treatment


Using the P.A.C.E. Model™ for AAI to develop AAI sessions, the practitioner (Sophie) does

a P.A.C.E. assessment for each component’s QOC, relationship with the other components, and

resulting reciprocal relationship when all components come together. Items she might consider:

Practitioner – Her QOC working with a new group of patients, skill and confidence

working with non-Bovidae (goat) species, her relationship with support staff, and her

familiarity with the environment of the working farm.

Animal – Each animal’s QOC working with a new group of patients, each animal’s

training and temperament, each animal’s relationship with others on the farm, vaccination

and illness records for each animal, and who is each animal’s advocate or handler who

will provide the highest level of care and oversight when the animal works in AAI


Client – The QOC of a new group of patients to receive AAI services, each group

member’s physical ability, known allergies, fears, or history of violence or aggression

towards animals by any member in this new group.

Environment – The QOC of the environment at this working farm to host a new group of

patients to receive AAI sessions, the daily routine at this farm that would allow the group

to arrive when operations are more quiet and predictable, and considering what qualities

are inherent to this “working” farm (i.e., animals sold for breeding or butchering, and if

these aspects are counter-indicated for this new group of patients).

If Sophie decides to move forward with the AAI services expansion, the P.A.C.E.

Model™ for AAI gives her ample checks-and-balances to apply to her new role. She would

score a low QOC because she is new as a registered nurse, new in designing AAI sessions, new

to a different patient group at the hospital, and still fairly new in working with animals other than

goats at this working farm facility. As she spends more time in each of these areas, receives

additional training, and works with different animal species, her QOC will also increase.

Therefore, to help her “balance” her current level of QOC, she could start by co-facilitating with

other practitioners who have more QOC in regards to specific animal species or the needs of the

outpatient population. To help her balance her QOC with the animals, she could work with just

the goats at this new farm facility as she already comes with 15 years of competence working

with goats. However, she cannot assume one goat is just like the next and she must still put in the

time and effort to work with each goat individually and build her relationship with each goat. To

help her balance her QOC with clients, she could opt to continue the current in-patient group at

the farm, and only work with her new outpatient group on hospital grounds until she gains

competency in this new group’s different needs and expectations. By continuing the AAI

program with the current group of patients at the farm, she also continues to build her QOC in

the environment of the farm. Session by session, she will start to notice pieces of the larger

environmental milieu and in turn, this helps inform her subsequent practice with any new group

of clients.