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Six Common Questions about Therapy Pets

What are therapy pets, and are they safe? This is a question that many may ask when they first hear about this type of program. They are found in schools, nursing facilities, hospitals, prisons, private homes, and anywhere the love and presence of a pet would provide support. 

What are your concerns about therapy pets?  

Therapy Pets Are Not Service Animals

These two terms are not interchangeable. Service animals are trained a specific person for specific needs such as blindness, deafness, mental disability, illness. This animal (usually a dog) stays with the individual at all times and is provided certain protections under the law. 

Therapy pets, or animal-assisted therapy pets, are there for emotional support as adjunct therapy sessions. They are good for elderly persons, autistic individuals, PTSD, cancer patients, mental health patients, children, and others. Pet therapy can improve confidence and social interactions, decrease anxiety, and increase teamwork and fine motor skills. 

What to Ask When Thinking about Pet Therapy

There are many benefits to using these services. They may have been suggested to you before. Here are common questions and their answers. 

  • 1. What happens during pet therapy? – This depends on the setting. In most cases, the therapist will supervise as the pet, and his handler (usually his owner) is introduced to the patient, and parameters of the meet are established. With most animals (not fish, of course), there will be contacted through direct care and petting and cuddling. 
  • 2. What are the risks of pet therapy? – There are very few risks if any. Facilities screen the pet/handler teams to meet their criteria. When working with gigantic animals like horses, participants wear helmets and other protective gear. Interactions are monitored to make sure that there is no injury to either party.
  • 3. How do you prepare for pet therapy? – The details of the specific program you are taking part in will be explained to you at the outset, even before you agree to it. The first meeting is apprehensive until the pet and the patient becomes accustomed.
  • 4. What type of animals are used? – This depends on the therapeutic needs of the patient. Common animals are dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and guinea pigs. Some organizations won’t certify what they consider to be “exotic animals.” That includes snakes, lizards, and ferrets. 
  • 5. Does this therapy help? – Research is still ongoing, but pets have been used for therapeutic purposes for hundreds of years. People with pets are more likely to live past a medical incident like a heart attack than those without a pet. The calming effects of pets decrease stress and anxiety just by being around them.
  • 6. Where can I find a therapy dog or other pet? – Local organizations exist in just about every area. You can Google nationally known organizations and look for local chapters in your area. If you are asking for someone in a hospital or nursing facility, speak with the staff to find out if they offer such a program. 

Get the information and the answers you need about pet therapy.

Six Common Questions about Therapy Pets

Six Common Questions about Therapy Pets

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