Animal Magic
Resource Type Care Inspectorate Programmes & Publications

Animal magic

Our resource Animal Magic celebrates the amazing difference being around and caring for animals makes for many children and adults using a range of care services.

This resource is part of our approach to support innovation and improvement across the care sector in Scotland. Animal Magic highlights the ways many people get the most out of life by being around or caring for animals and pets. People experiencing care have told us that being around animals helps them relax, provides companionship, enhances their relationships, gives them a positive focus to their lives and makes them feel happier.

Pet corner

In the examples featured people experiencing care have told us that being around animals links to compassionate and nurturing care. Contact with animals can provide something special and magical in addition to human interaction. The examples show that having animals around services promotes a culture of kindness and tenderness for people of all ages, from young children to older people living with dementia. Some of the examples show that for some people , spending time with and caring for animals has specific therapeutic benefits and helps them process trauma and loss and become more emotionally resilient.

In Animal Magic and the accompanying film footage we hear the direct personal voices of people using and living in care services. We hear about the special bonds and transformative connections that are formed. We also hear that having animals in their lives allows them to form natural connections to the local community. This may be walking a dog or going to agricultural shows. Animals bring people together in a unique way and reduce isolation and loneliness.

Dog walking

Care professionals tell us in the resource that there can be challenges sometimes to overcome in order to keep pets in care services. The Care inspectorate recognises that there is a balance to be struck to ensure that everyone’s choices and rights are respected. The care professionals’ outline how there are positive ways to overcome challenges and organisations that can provide support. For each of the examples there is a section on things to think about and signposts to helpful resources and research.

We have produced 18 short documentary videos to accompany Animal Magic. Both care staff and people experiencing care, in all kinds of settings, tell us their own stories of the benefits animals bring to their service and how they made it work. You can watch our highlights video below. Or visit our YouTube channel to view all the films. 

We hope that these stories inspire other care services to explore the benefits and magic of animals. We would love to hear from you if you have an example you would like us to feature on The Hub. Please contact us at


More Animal Magic

1. "Pet Therapy" in Methven Primary School Nursery

The staff team at Methven Nursery in Perth and Kinross were inspired by our resource Animal Magic. They recognised that some children were anxious around dogs and decided to provide support.  They connected with Balmullo nursery in Fife, featured in Animal Magic who were extremely helpful.  This approach has been a extremely beneficial learning experience for the children.

Methven Primary School Nursery has run their "Pet Therapy" so far over a five week period, with the "Mollie" attending for a full day each week. They did it on a Monday one week, Tuesday the next week so that every child in their setting had at least one session with Mollie. Most children were able to access this at least three sessions and some had all five.

The staff found this an extremely beneficial learning experience for the children. They did an evaluation sheet with their children and a bit for parents to comment on and the feedback and learning that they discussed was amazing.

They have included SHANARRI "Pet Therapy" evaluation sheetcompleted evaluations and "Pet Therapy" letter to parents for you to look at.

We hope you find this shared learning helpful.

2. Talking to the animals - the gift of reading out loud

The Harmeny Herald published an article about the benefits of dogs supporting children with reading and building their confidence. You can read the full article here

3. Animal Guardians

Animal Guardians is a free one-to-one education programme from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) suitable for primary school aged children. Together with the SPCA youth engagement officer, children will play a range of games and activities to help them learn about animal emotions, what animals need to keep them healthy and happy, and how to be responsible when around animals.

If you would like to know if your child would benefit from this programme or have any concerns about a child’s behaviour towards animals, please phone for guidance on 03000 999 999, option 5.

A child can be referred by anyone who is in a position of care for that child.

This includes:

  • Parents or other relatives/carers
  • Teachers
  • Childcare and health professionals
  • Charitable organisations working with a child

Other useful information

Hopefully you will already have heard of Animal Magic, the Care Inspectorate’s improvement resource that promotes the benefits for people experiencing care having contact with animals.  Through highlighting different ways that people can get the most out of life by being around or caring for animals and pets, Animal Magic has proven to be a popular resource across the care sector. 

The staff at Methven primary school nursery in Perth and Kinross were inspired by our resource. They recognised that some children were anxious around dogs and decided to provide support. They connected with one of our Animal Magic contributors, Balmullo nursery in Fife, who were extremely helpful.  Their support approach has been an extremely beneficial learning experience for the children.  Methven nursery ran Pet Therapy sessions over five weeks, with Mollie the dog attending for a full day each week.  They did it on a different day each week so every child in had at least one session with Mollie.  The service created evaluation tools for children and parents and the feedback and learning was great.  You will find their story and tools, alongside new case studies from Harmeny School and Animal Guardians, in the Animal Magic area of The Hub.

Animal Magic has also gained international recognition through being extensively referenced in ‘Our Wild Calling’, a book by the influential American author Richard Louv.  Richard Louv first gained public attention through the publication of ‘Last Child in the Woods’ and at a Play Scotland conference shared the platform with our Head of Professional Practice and Standards.

Due to the ongoing interest in Animal Magic and animals being more involved in care services, the Care Inspectorate is currently collaborating with the following organisations to develop guidelines for animals in care and education settings:

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)

Edinburgh University

Education Scotland

International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organisations


Care Inspectorate Team Manager and author of Animal Magic, Mary Morris has written an article for the December 2018 edition of the Scottish Journal of Residential Childcare. The article advocates taking a positive, proactive approach to having animals and pets in the lives of looked after children. Links are made with the new Health and Social Care Standards. The life enhancing difference that animals can make for some looked after children in promoting their self-esteem and resilience are explored. You can read the article here.

Mary has also produced a blog (published February 2019) on the success of Animal Magic. You can read the blog here.


The Society for Companion Animal Studies has published updated good practice for organisations introducing animals to health, social care and education facilities as visiting and/or as communal resident animals.


STAF (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum’) are working with us to promote the benefits of pets and contact with animals for children and young people being looked after by local authorities.  This includes the following survey being led by care experienced young people

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