Therapy & Support Animals Australia

The benefits of animal therapy are now well documented and supported by research. We know it works!

Our purpose at Therapy & Support Animals Australia is to provide a calm and comforting environment to support people, in situations where they may feel uncomfortable and anxious. Focussing on a therapy animal has been proven to significantly reduce fear and anxiety.   Research into Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has shown that petting an animal for as little as a minute stimulates the production of oxytocin (Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003), the hormone that is associated with bonding, trust, cooperation and even love.  Petting a therapy animal also releases endorphins making people feel better, diminishing feelings of pain, depression and loneliness.

Meet your Instructors!

Nikki Bignell 

Nikki was seventeen when her first dog, a German Shepherd named Boogie came into her life.  She joined a local dog obedience group, where her passion for training dogs began. Since that time, Nikki has trained, handled and assessed many breeds of dogs under numerous disciplines.

In 1990, Nikki joined the Queensland Police Service and was selected into the Brisbane Dog Squad in 1992.  Nikki served as a member of the Dog Squad for nearly twenty years, and during that time she trained and handled police dogs in the following disciplines: general purpose, accelerant detection (arson investigations), marijuana detection, narcotic detection and explosive detection.  Nikki also created and led the inaugural Labrador breeding program of the Queensland Police Service.

 As part of her role in the Queensland Police Dog Squad, Nikki developed and designed the procedures for the first Passive Dog Operations implemented in Brisbane City and Fortitude Valley.  In overseeing this program Nikki was responsible for conducting continuous risk assessments, often in very fluid and volatile environments.

Nikki also worked with and trained members of the Australian Border Force (formerly Customs Service) Detector Dog Program throughout Queensland and in their Canberra-based dog breeding program.  She worked with the unit operationally and also provided training at their puppy breeding centre to help develop their puppies to become operational detection dogs.

Nikki retired from the Queensland Police Service in 2010.  She has, however, continued to work with animals creating a successful dog and cat mobile grooming business which she operates in Brisbane.

In 2016 a major security company based in Nairobi, Kenya, asked Nikki to come to Nairobi to establish a private explosive detection dog program in the country.   During this time, she recruited and trained five handlers, two training officers who worked with five dogs.  She overcame the challenges of cultural differences and language barriers to establish a successful explosive detection dog.  Nikki is also particularly proud to have recruited and trained Kenya’s first female handlers.

Dean Hanson

 Dean has been training dogs since 1987 when he acquired his first dog, a Rottweiler named Kahn. Not fussed with the world of dog shows, he got together with a group of like-minded people and formed the Brisbane Sporting Dog Club. Together they set out to train their dogs in the sport of Schutzhund, (obedience, tracking and protection). At their first opportunity to compete in a trial, Dean and Khan finished 2nd in a field of 36 in Adelaide. This was the catalyst to him seeking a career in dog handling and training.

In 1989, Dean was accepted into the Qld Police Dog Squad. Over the next 31 years he has established himself as leading exponent of dog training in law enforcement circles. He has handled Rottweilers, German Shepherds and an English Springer Spaniel in the field. The capabilities of these dogs included tracking, obedience, apprehension, searching, cadaver detection, blood detection. 

In 1997 he was selected to represent QLD at the Australia and NZ Police Dog Trials. He and his dog Nikko were crowned obedience champions. This led to him being invited to NZ to help implement new training techniques that were revolutionary at the time. Techniques he leant by regularly attending dog training seminars involving the best dog trainers from the USA and Europe. He continues to attend such seminars and strives to keep learning from the people leading the world in dog training methods.

In 2001 he commenced instructing on Police Dog Training Courses. Over the next 14 years he qualified 130 Police Dog Teams. In 2015 he was tasked with managing the German Shepherd Breeding Program of the Police Dog Squad. He is responsible for developing the pups that this program produces. From when they are born to 15 months old, he shapes their temperament and imprints the skills to put the pups on the path to one day serving the community.

Dean now enjoys the company of a new breed, the Jack Russell. His pet dogs Vegas and Winnie keep him amused and young at heart with their huge personalities.

Jess Kaddatz

Since 2013, Jess has been breeding and training Border Collies, as well as Qualifying and working as a Veterinary Nurse. She’s been to countless seminars and workshops with behaviorists, veterinarians, handlers and performers. After purchasing her 6th dog, Zepin 2016 from The Flipping Disc Dogz, she was persuaded to do Freestyle Frisbee and hasn’t looked back. Since then, her dogs have won countless awards and titles in tricks and frisbee, including State Champions for Freestyle, Games and Toss and Fetch. Both
Jess and Steph auditioned and performed in the stage show “Let’s Be Friends Furever” at Brisbane Powerhouse and Gold Coast HOTA. Have given interviews with ABC, channels 9 and 7. Performed regularly at Eat Street Northshore, a few school visits and own the first dogs to perform a “death roll” and “trust fall” in Australia.

Dumbledore – CEO – Chief Equine Officer

Dumbledore’s survival was very uncertain due to his many underdeveloped body parts including kneecaps and compromised lung capacity.  Dumbledore eventually was able to come home with Nikki, where she hand fed him every two hours.  Dumbledore lived in the house with Nikki, the three dogs and two cats, and slept in a bedroom sharing a dog bed with her Golden Retriever Betty.  He quickly made himself at home, becoming another of the indoor family. 

Being hand raised Dumbledore is very comfortable with people and in all types of situations.  He has been the special guest at numerous events, has been featured in magazines and has even been a TV star appearing as a guest on Doctor Harry’s Better Homes and Gardens segment, and was the first guest featured on Juiced TV, filmed at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

Vinnie and Dumbledore are both male miniature horses.  Both have amazing personalities and love nothing more than meeting and interacting with people due to their upbringing in houses and around people.

 Dumbledore weighs approximately 110kgs and stands 75 cm high to the shoulder.

Read more about Dumbledores adventures at


In 2014, at two and a half years of age, Zak was surrendered to GARA (Golden Angels Rescue Association).  Nikki adopted Zak and he joined the rest of the fur family which included a female Golden Retriever, Betty; horses, Misty, Vinnie, Dumbledore, Luna, Zorbie and Bilbo; and two cats,  Karma and Kismet Mae, on acreage in Northwest Brisbane.

Zak is a purebred Golden Retriever with a very placid temperament.  He is an extremely loyal dog who enjoys nothing more than spending time with people, playing tug of war and chasing a semideflated soccer ball.  He loves trips to the beach where he can meet lots of friends and attempt to dig a whole large enough to hide in.

After Nikki and Zak completed a therapy dog course together in 2019 Nikki established the business, Therapy & Support Animals Australia.

Why Choose Therapy & Support Animals Australia?

By retaining Therapy & Support Animals Australia you are assured to have a professional and highly-trained handler and animal team.  We maintain the highest level of integrity and professionalism to support you and your brand. Nikki will visit your workplace prior to deployment to undertake a detailed risk assessment to ensure a successful and safe deployment.  Further risk assessments will be conducted annually or as directed by regulatory changes or if the scope of work required changes significantly.

Nikki’s unique experience in police dog operations and training and working with explosive detection dogs in Africa has given her unparalleled ability to conduct continuous risk assessments on the ground, minimising risk and ensuring a pleasant experience for all that come into contact with Therapy & Support Animals Australia.

About Us

Interacting with a therapy animal releases endorphins making people feel better, diminishing feelings of pain, depression and loneliness. Having a therapy and support dog visit your workplace can help create conditions conducive to a more productivity and give your clients a stress-free environment..


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