Therapy animal work is a rewarding experience. It’s a chance for you to share the animal you love with others. It’s a chance for you to have an activity to do with your animal, have a sense of purpose and give back to your community. After all, your pet is too perfect not to share.
The benefits of pet therapy
Unlike service animals, therapy animals are encouraged to socialize with a variety of people. While many of us intuitively understand the benefits of positive interactions with animals in our lives, an emerging body of research is recognizing the impact the human-animal bond can have on individual and community health.
Research shows that even just a ten-minute visit from a therapy animal can reduce depression and pain and improve energy. We also know that time spent with therapy animals reduces stress and anxiety, increases endorphins, lowers blood pressure and promotes physical movement and activity.
Key traits for therapy animals
Pet Partners recognizes nine different species for therapy work, including dogs, cats, rabbits, llamas/alpacas, equines, birds, pigs, rats and guinea pigs. In order to begin sharing belly rubs and tail-wagging with your community, there are some things a therapy animal registration group, like Pet Partners, will look for and some criteria you may want to consider in regards to your own pet. For example, does your animal welcome, not just tolerate, interactions with new people? Is your pet confident and well-behaved in new situations, around unusual equipment and when meeting strangers of different ages, races and genders? Are they comfortable around crowds and noise and do they consistently follow cues for sit, down and stay? Here’s a good quiz to take that goes through some of these questions and more.
Then do a couple of trial runs in your community, get out and about with your pet and expose them to new people and places. For the right pet and owner partners, therapy animal work can be a truly fulfilling experience.
Elisabeth Van Every, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships Coordinator, Pet Partners, [email protected]