ELISTA Education - Education & Training in Animal Assistance & Therapy

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Alison Bush - Operations Director & Programme Manager.

Alison BushAlison’s real first relationship with an animal was with a dog named ‘Duke’ when she was 5 years old. Duke saw Alison through some tough times in her childhood and really paved the way for her future work with animals and her passion for helping others through the use of animals.

Alison started her first job with animals at 13 when she worked on Saturdays in a local Grooming Parlour, since then she has completed a Diploma in Animal Care, Certificate in Health and Social Care, Teaching Certificate and Honours Degree in Animal Science and Behaviour as well as working in industries including Pet Shops, Farms and Equestrian Centres.

In 2003 Alison moved to Ireland to work on a Therapeutic Farm conducting individual and group programmes in Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Education before relocating and taking the position of Course Co-ordinator of the Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing in a further education and training college.

Due to her passion for helping others to enjoy and benefit from interactions with animals Alison initiated a fun Dog Training club and also started dog training classes in 2007 under the name ‘Happier Hounds Dog Training’. Alison is a founding member of APDT Ireland (Association of Pet Dog Trainers).

Her interest in human-animal interactions has allowed Alison many of travel and learning opportunities including a trip to Indonesia and the attendance of a Delta Society (now Pet Partners) conference in the USA. Alison continues to train in the developing areas relevant to Assistance and Therapy and gained her level 1 in Sign Language, attends seminars and workshops in dog training and behaviour, completed her EAGALA stage 1 and Horse Boy Method 'Sensory Training Certificate'. Alison is aiming to increase her own knowledge by continuing personal studies through participation on a Masters programme in Animal Assisted Therapy.

Alison represented ELISTA Education and Ireland in a two year international Erasmus+ project called “Animal Integration in Education”. Within the project Alison educated teachers on how animals can be ethically utilised in the classroom to benefit children’s learning, behaviour and social interactions. She also had a significant role in preparing the project’s European guidelines for teachers.

Alison's own animal family is currently made up of Zena, Golden Retriever, Stripes, rescued Dalmation XX, Jack and Flapjack the Shetland ponies, Jester and Pedro, Phoebe and Moffit, and numerous others at the ELISTA centre.

Dawn Sharpe -
Programme Tutor

Dawn’s first pet, like many young new pet owners, was a goldfish in a plastic bowl-simple, but the start to her interest in and love of animals. As a young girl, the desire to learn more about animals was enhanced by an Uncle who recorded episodes of David Attenborough documentaries for Dawn. These were watched religiously day after day.

Together with school friends Dawn created a Club IAW (Inside Animal Welfare), which fund raised for WWF and did odd (animal related) jobs like grooming, dog walking and "babysitting" neighbour's beloved pets. Dawn’s interest in animals grew more, eventually leading her down the path of working with animals.

Dawn has successfully completed an Animal Care course and further progressed to complete a Diploma in Animal Management. Through this course Dawn had the opportunity to gain first hand experience into the benefits of animals for children with special needs as she conducted research into the area.

Dawn has, for several years, actively volunteered with Special Olympics Ireland and has much Special Needs experience from this and other associated groups. Dawn regularly teaches children about animals and enjoys seeing the pleasure they get from caring for a pet.

Dawn currently has 2 cats, Jaffa Cake and Orea, a breaded Dragon by the name of Dib Dab, a rabbit name Oscar, a ferret named Jackson and of course a tank full of tropical fish. All which have been rescues or unwanted due to abnormalities.

She is currently working in the area of Animal Husbandry and Welfare, specialising in Aquatics, as well as being involved in the delivery of ELISTA Education Animal Welfare courses.

Katrina O'Donoghue - Programme Tutor

Katrina O’DonoghueKatrina O' Donoghue has been involved with horses all her life; competing in Dressage and Eventing she travelled globally as part of Irish Equestrian Teams. At a young age Katrina started working through her BHS (British Horse Society) Stages to accumulate in her receiving her Affiliate Instructor (AI) qualification.

Katrina has been involved in running commercial Equestrian Centres, she teaches group and individual lessons and has organised league and pony club events. Katrina also offers Equine Assisted Activities to special needs clients and uses her Miniature Pony in EAT facilitation through visits to nursing homes, schools and other care facilities. (see service programmes)

Katrina is also certified to EAGALA Stage 1 and has completed full training in the Horse Boy Method. Katrina is involved in the delivery of the Equine Handing Husbandry and Instruction course offered by ELISTA Education, and the progression course Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning.

Ilse Sas - Programme Tutor

Ilse Sas has devoted her time, full time to dogs for well over a decade. After being heavily involved in dog rescue in North Co. Cork and regularly transporting dogs for re-homing to the UK, an opportunity arose for Ilse to work with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Ilse was employed to assess and select dogs from Irish rescue centres to become Hearing Dogs in the UK.

During this time, as Ilse’s own canine family rapidly expanded, she became a valued member of COCO dog club, and after completing Easy Lead (now offered through ELISTA Education) Canine Behaviour and Training and then Canine Training and Instructing courses she not only participated but also instructed on behalf of the club.

Ilse has achieved dog grooming qualifications and has been responsible for the delivery of an Animal Welfare programme offered in a Further Education college, she is also a certified Canine First Responder. Now Ilse splits her time between working as a Dog Groomer in a Veterinary Practice, rescuing and re-homing dogs especially Dobermans and Shih Tzu’s and caring for her Guinea Pigs and poultry. Ilse assists in the delivery of the ELISTA Education Animal Welfare course and tutors the Animal Rehabilitation progression course.


ELISTA Education is pleased to have the support of various professionals that work in areas relating to Animals and/or People. All support team members, like ELISTA Education believe in the benefits animal can have on people and are passionate about promoting a society that uses and treats animals kindly, fairly and ethically. Professional Support Team members support the aims and ethos of ELISTA Education, they may have had input into course material following consultation with programme design team, but are otherwise not affiliated to, nor considered to be endorsing specific programmes.