Animal-assisted therapy or pet therapy is increasingly becoming popular all over the world, especially in the United States. Many pet owners find benefits in using their animals to assist individuals in need of emotional and physical support. Pet therapy involves the use of trained animals to help people recover or cope with medical issues, emotional, psychological or physical needs. Although many people praise therapy pet services, some opponents argue that there is no scientific evidence to support the legitimacy of pets in therapy. This article will explore the benefits, drawbacks, and legitimacy of therapy pets.
What are therapy pets?
Therapy pets are animals that are trained to provide social and emotional support to individuals with different types of disabilities, health issues or emotional disorders. They can be dogs, cats, horses, rabbits or any other animal with a calm and sociable temperament. Certified therapy pets go through a rigorous training process and are often registered with national and international organizations. These organizations ensure that therapy animals are safe, reliable, and trained to do their job effectively.
Benefits of therapy pets
Therapy pets are beneficial to individuals with different types of disabilities or medical issues. Here are some of the benefits of therapy pets:
- Reduced anxiety: Therapy pets can help reduce anxiety levels in individuals, especially in stressful situations. They can also help individuals cope with anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Physical therapy: Therapy pets can assist in physical rehabilitation by increasing range of motion, facilitating movement, and improving circulation.
- Mental well-being: Therapy pets can help improve mental well-being by reducing depression, feelings of loneliness, and promoting positive social interactions.
- Reduced blood pressure: Pets can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, by relaxing patients and reduce their stress levels.
Drawbacks of therapy pets
Although there are numerous benefits of pet therapy, owning and training therapy pets can have some drawbacks, which include:
- Costs: Training and certification of therapy pets can be very expensive, which can make it difficult for people to access these services.
- Responsibility and time commitment: Owning and caring for a therapy pet requires a significant amount of time, effort and financial commitment.
- Allergies: Some people may have severe allergies to pet dander or fur, making it impossible for them to get close to therapy animals.
- Not suitable for everyone: Although pet therapy is beneficial, it is not suitable for everyone, especially those who are afraid of animals or have an irrational fear of pets.
Scientific Evidence for therapy pets
While many people contend that pets can help to reduce anxiety and provide comfort to people, there is still a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of pets as therapeutic tools. There has been some research conducted to explore the benefits of animal-assisted therapy. However, these studies have focused mainly on children with autism disorders, and elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of research on the use of pets in therapy means that there is still a lot to learn about their potential benefits.
Legitimacy of therapy pets
Even though there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of pets in therapy, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal law and many states support the use of service animals in public places. Service animals are defined under the law as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” However, service animals are different from animals used in therapeutic settings, like hospitals or nursing homes, which are considered facility therapy animals. While the legal rights of therapy animals in private settings, such as schools or assisted living facilities, are still up for debate, it is important to understand that certification and training of therapy pets is an industry and many patients claim that animals help them deal with their emotional or psychological struggles, making therapy pets legitimate to some extent.
Although therapy pets have numerous benefits, it is important to evaluate their total effectiveness before utilizing them in medical or therapeutic settings. Additionally, the drawbacks should be considered and compared to the benefits before deciding if pet therapy is suitable for a client. While therapy pets have strong emotional and psychological potentials, the lack of scientific data regarding the use of pets means that the discussion on the legitimacy of therapy pets is not yet over.
- Most Common Questions and their Answers
Ans: Therapy pets are animals trained to provide social and emotional support to individuals with different types of disabilities, health issues, or emotional disorders.
Ans: Therapy pets can benefit the individuals in many ways, including reducing anxiety levels, improving physical rehabilitation, enhancing emotional well-being, and even reducing blood pressure levels.
Ans: Some potential drawbacks of therapy pets include their financial and time commitments, potential allergies, as well as the fact that they may not be suitable for all individuals.
Ans: Though there is limited scientific evidence on the effectiveness of therapy pets, certification and training of therapy pets makes the practice legitimate.
American Kennel Club. (n.d.). Therapy Dog Training. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/sports/title-recognition-program/therapy-dog-program/how-to-train-your-dog-for-therapy-work/
Animal-Assisted Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=animal-assisted-therapy-90-P01636
Crary, D. (2016). The debate over therapy animals. The Alligator. Retrieved from https://www.alligator.org/news/the-debate-over-therapy-animals/article_58608ecc-10a4-11e6-8a91-9ba325b719ec.html