Our relationships with animals and the natural world possess great healing potential when intentionally addressed. The Animals and Human Health (AHH) professional development certificate focuses on human-animal interactions, activities, and learning, which require that those delivering interventions and services have the expertise necessary to attend to the needs of the people and the animals involved.

Throughout this program, you will develop skill and expertise regarding the practical applications of human-animal interactions and understand how the effects of these methods can be demonstrated across human service settings with various populations. You will also learn how these interactions can be incorporated in practice by a range of professionals and how to create and implement high-quality, human-animal-environment interaction programs with a critical emphasis on ethics and animal well-being.

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An Emphasis on Ethical Human-Animal Interactions

The Animals and Human Health program provides education and skill development in the growing field of human-animal interactions (HAI) with a strong emphasis on ethics and animal well-being. Professional HAIs demonstrate how the human-animal bond can create lasting social, emotional, cognitive, physical, spiritual, and psychological changes. Therapy, activities, and learning integrating animals are found in many settings. For example:

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    As part of his physical therapy, a man recovering from a stroke regains the use of his arm by playing “fetch” with a specially screened and trained dog.

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    An at-risk teen refuses traditional therapy but begins to explore personal issues with a therapist who integrates equines into their mental health practice.

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    A child who is a victim of sexual abuse learns to trust and connect with people by first learning to trust and connect with an animal.

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    A student with a learning difference feels excited and hopeful about school because of a new education program integrating animals.

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A Program for Working Professionals

The Animals and Human Health certificate enhances the practice of professionals from a variety of human service careers—from counselors to teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, police officers, veterinarians and more—by providing the education needed to incorporate animals into their work. With the certificate, you can enhance your current career by incorporating the value and benefits of the human-animal bond.

Although many of our students work in the mental health field and are integrating or planning to integrate animals into their therapy practice, this program does not teach you how to be a therapist (a graduate degree from an accredited program is typically needed to practice in the mental health field). If you are looking for a career change into mental health treatment and human-animal interactions, consider pairing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and the Human-Animal-Environmental Interactions in Social Work Certificate from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.


You will earn 35 continuing education units documented on a University of Denver transcript.


Approximately 700 students across 6 continents have completed this certificate since it began in 2006.


Enrollment is capped at 13 students per cohort for a high-quality learning environment.

“This program gave me the tools, knowledge and confidence to be able to deliver an ethical animal-assisted intervention service at Southampton Children's Hospital in the UK that everyone enjoys—two legged and four!” 

Lyndsey Uglow, Alumni, Animals & Human Health Certificate
AHH Alumni Lyndsey Uglow

Program Format

Our curriculum is designed to meet various needs and interests, and takes place completely online. The certificate includes three online courses and one virtual Capstone session. You will progress through the three required online courses in sequence with a peer cohort, then meet over Zoom for a two-day Capstone. As you move through the program, your instructors will offer guidance, individualized weekly feedback, and participate in online discussion forums.

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    Online Courses

    Courses include readings, written assignments, community/experiential activities, videos, and discussion forums. You may complete coursework at your pace within specified due dates. Experiential activities are incorporated into each course and will require you to work in the community, away from the computer. 

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    Capstone Session

    Your capstone will tie what you have learned throughout the program together by asking you to create a full program, case plan, program intervention, or research design with an associated human-animal interaction application, which you’ll virtually present to your instructors and peers. You will gain the experience of presenting your program in a formal and concise manner, as well as feedback from your peers and instructors. Students also complete a critical reflection examining their positionality in relation to their human-animal interaction practice. This course is where everyone's unique experience, background, and future goals shine. Many alumni of Animals and Human Health have taken their completed project and implemented it in their organization or community!

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    Tailored Learning

    As a student, you will be able to tailor your learning and assignments to fit with your chosen animal species, population with whom you would like to work, and your ideal setting. As you research human-animal interaction programs that are similar to the type of work you intend to do, you’ll learn what is currently happening in your field and extrapolate the best practices needed to develop and lead a successful and ethical program.  

Upcoming Program Dates

  2024 Cohort 2 2024 Cohort 3

Animals & Human Health Core Course (online)

June 3 - July 28, 2024 Sept 16 - Nov 10, 2024

Applications of Human-Animal Interactions Course (online)

Aug 19 - Sept 29, 2024 Jan 13 - Feb 23, 2025

Animal Partners in Human-Animal Interactions Course (online)

Oct 21 - Dec 1, 2024 March 17 - April 27, 2025

Capstone Course (online)

Jan 9 - 10, 2025 May 29 - 30, 2025

Cost and Requirements


Bachelor’s degree from an accredited 4-year college or university, or equivalent working experience in the human-animal interaction field

Program Fee

Program fee includes courses, Capstone, and instructor consultation. An additional non-refundable $25 fee is due with your application.

Program fee can be paid all at once, or in installments. Payments are made online by credit/debit card (special arrangements can be made for third-party payers).

Payments Animals and Human Health
Deposit (secures your space in the cohort) $1,400 (due before Core course begins)
Installment 1 $1,050 (due before the Applications of Human-Animal Interactions course begins)
Installment 2 $1,050 (due before the Animal Partners in Human-Animal Interactions course begins)

Application Information

Cohorts are filled on a first come, first serve basis. Due to high interest, it is recommended to submit your application early.

Certificate Faculty

Betty Jean Curran

Betty Jean Curran

Adjunct Faculty, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Molly DePrekel

Molly DePrekel

Adjunct Faculty, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Nina Ekholm-Fry

Nina Ekholm Fry

Director of Equine Programs, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Sherly Pierre

Sheryl Pierre

Adjunct Faculty, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Heather Pugh

Heather Pugh

Adjunct Faculty, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Jennifer VonLintel

Jennifer VonLintel

Adjunct Faculty, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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AHH Alumni Stories

Pamela Wheeler
Therapy Farm Built on Access and Inclusion

Pamela Wheeler is a licensed mental health practitioner who founded UBU Therapy Farms in Lincoln, NE where children can learn socio-emotional skills and interact with animals in a therapeutic setting. Wheeler previously worked as a crisis response therapist and sought out our Animals and Human Health professional development certificate because she wanted to begin her own practice specializing in the inclusion of animals alongside treatment.

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Maria and her therapy dog
Dog-Assisted Reading Program in Mexico

Maria Espinosa de los Monteros didn’t grow up with dogs, but quickly opened up her heart and home to the many stray dogs in need of care in her community once she was able to. She is now the director of the R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistant Dogs) program in Mexico City where she serves a diverse population and is elevating the role of dogs in her community.

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Andrea Sierra
AHH Graduate Launches Successful Human-Animal Interactions Program

Andrea Sierra graduated from our Animals and Human Health (AHH) certificate program in 2022. She is now a clinical supervisor at The Crossroads Inc., in Phoenix, Arizona, one of the largest non-profit residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs in the United States. At Crossroads, she utilized the knowledge she gained in AHH to assist her in implementing a human-animal interaction program that incorporates psychoeducational topics, such as communication skills, trust building, trauma, and mindfulness.

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