Animal assisted therapy is a way for people and their pets to help others by sharing their compassion and goodwill. Pets and their owners visit and interact with a wide variety of people that need a little extra emotional support. Therapy patients get a chance to pet, talk to and bond with visiting pets.
Why is animal assisted therapy important?
It's been shown that people who spend time with pets live longer, get sick less, and have lower blood pressure. Petting and talking to animals lowers stress in people and the animals they are interacting with. It can also be a great way to lift people out of isolation and loneliness. Pets are wonderful listeners and provide unconditional love. Therapeutic horseback riding is another valuable type of animal assisted therapy that gives people an additional way to interact with animals.
What kinds of people and places will my pet and I visit?
Therapy pets and their owners visit a wide variety of people and places:
- Patients in hospitals
- Elderly people in nursing homes, hospices and retirement homes
- Psychologically or emotionally disturbed children and adults
- Adults and children with physical disabilities
- Prison inmates
- Disaster victims
What types of animals are used?
Dogs are the most common therapy pets, but horses, cats and even birds have been known to pitch in.
What are the qualifications of a good therapy pet?
In general, therapy pets should be well-behaved, friendly animals that can be trained to interact with strangers in unusual or distracting situations. They must enjoy human interaction, including lots of petting and cuddling. No biters here!
How do I find out more?
Take a look at some of these links we've collected for you.
More About Animal Assisted Therapy
Four-Footed Therapy (at the World Trade Center site)
Horses and Therapeutic Riding
Animal Assisted Therapy Organizations
The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association