#084: Animal-Assisted Interactions in Singapore with Stasha Wong

by | May 22, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Stasha Wong

Stasha Wong and her colleagues are creating positive Animal-Assisted Interactions in Singapore through Caring Canine Teams.

In this 84th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sit down with Stasha Wong, a director at Animal-Assisted Interactions Singapore (AAISG). A social scientist specializing in human-animal interactions and with experience from SOSD’s Healing Paws initiative, Stasha has a lot to share about best practices when working with animals. Together with AAISG’s founder, Adele Lau, a passionate animal welfare advocate, they lead an organization fueled by compassion, integrity, and empowerment. 

Through the episode, Stasha explains the purposeful language they use at AAISG, emphasizing the mutual benefit between humans and animals. The organization uses terms like “Animal-Assisted Interactions” and “Caring Canine Teams” to illustrate the symbiotic relationship their teams have in the programs in they offer.

Stasha shares how AAIG was founded to fill the gap in standardized guidelines and training for animal handlers in Singapore. Working side by side, Stasha and Adele established AAISG with a focus on public health, safety, and animal welfare, and to enhance the reputation of the animal-assisted interactions field in Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific. Their multidisciplinary strategy emphasizes evidence-based education, training, and services, positioning AAISG at the forefront of this field in Singapore.

Stasha also filled me in on the variety of programs offered by AAISG, designed to cater to a range of needs. These include “Dogtors On Call”, aimed at providing relief for stressed hospital staff, and “Ruffing It Out”, a program focused on helping at-risk youth. These initiatives demonstrate AAISG’s commitment to adaptability and inclusivity in their services.

We also discuss the impact of international experts such as Ann Howie and Dr. Nancy Gee on AAISG’s approach. Ann Howie, a psychotherapist integrating animal-assisted therapy, and Dr. Nancy Gee, Director of the Center for Human Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, have both significantly influenced AAISG’s practice and the field at large.

Towards the end of our conversation, Stasha shares her plans to extend AAISG’s impact beyond Singapore, possibly into Southeast Asia, while simultaneously pursuing a PhD in Anthropology. It’s impossible to miss the passion and dedication she has to this field.

I hope you’ll walk away from this episode with a profound appreciation for the work being done in the field of animal-assisted interactions, particularly in Singapore. It underscores the pivotal role organizations like AAISG play in fostering the well-being of both humans and animals, bridging gaps with their unique approaches.

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Why AAISG uses terms like Animal-Assisted Interactions and Caring Canine Teams.
  • How AAISG hopes to set the standard for AAI in Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific.
  • What it takes to become a Caring Canine Team and what they do.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

Note that the timecodes match the video, not the podcast.

  • [00:01:05] Stasha Wong, from an organization named Animal-Assisted Interactions Singapore (AAISG), talks about what her group does and their mission. They focus on teaching and research.
  • [00:02:10] Stasha tells us why they say “Animal-Assisted Interactions” instead of “Animal-Assisted Interventions”. The first term, she says, includes more situations and is more all-encompassing.
  • [00:02:45] We learn how AAISG started. Stasha and her co-founder Adele saw a need for better training for volunteer dogs, so they made this organization to tackle that issue.
  • [00:03:41] Experts like Ann Howie and Dr. Nancy Gee have helped shape AAISG’s practices. Stasha talks about how important it is to stay current with new information.
  • [00:04:57] Stasha explains why they call their teams “Caring Canine Teams” rather than “Therapy Dogs”. She emphasizes the human’s role in the process and mentions wanting to keep stress low for the dogs.
  • [00:06:17] Stasha and I talk about how hard it is to come up with standard terms in a field like animal-assisted interactions. They note that different cultures and situations can affect this.
  • [00:07:25] Stasha introduces us to some of AAISG’s programs. For example, “Dogtors On Call” helps hospital workers, and “Ruffing It Out” is for at-risk youth.
  • [00:09:56] I praise AAISG for being flexible and creating custom programs for different groups. Stasha agrees and points listeners to their website for more information.
  • [00:10:23] Stasha confirms that AAISG is open to working with organizations beyond the National University of Singapore. They work directly with these groups to offer their services.
  • [00:13:40] Stasha shares AAISG’s big goals. They hope to be leaders in Animal Assisted Interventions in Singapore and possibly Southeast Asia. She also mentions her plan to study for a PhD in Anthropology while continuing to work with AAISG.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!

Mentioned in this episode:

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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