Effects of Therapy Dogs on Trauma-Affected Students: A Retrospective Study on Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Annalee Shapiro 1 * , Martie Gillen 1 * , Brittney Dixon 1, Kate Fogarty 1

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 106-115

OPEN ACCESS   1640 Views   678 Downloads

Download Full Text (PDF)


School shootings are traumatic events that can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder among students who experience these events. It is important to find effective strategies to help students cope with their return to school, as well as their anxiety and stress levels while on campus. There exists a gap in the literature on the effects of therapy dogs on students who have witnessed a school shooting. This current study used a retrospective mixed-methods survey that was sent to recent graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (located in Parkland, Florida) who witnessed the February 2018 shooting. Data were collected to assess how the therapy dogs affected students' willingness to return to school and their stress/anxiety levels while on campus. Identified themes indicated that the therapy dogs helped with anxiety levels, stress levels, and overall moods of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students. These findings provide important implications for community leaders and school administrators who want to promote healing and well-being in a community that has experienced violence.

Keywords: Therapy dog, school shooting, community violence.