Therapy Animals on the Rise

Lily Lohrmann, Reporter

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With the constant stress of modern life and American politics, there has been an increase in anxiety and depression. As a result, therapy animals have been a way of helping many people cope with the fast pace of life and mental and/or emotional anxieties.

Pet therapy is a supervised interaction between a person and a trained animal. Some of the animals used for pet therapy are: dogs, cats, guinea pigs, horses, birds and even fish, although dogs are used the most for therapy purposes.

According to The Conversation, pet therapy is a way of providing comfort and support for people who need it, by reacting and responding to people in their environment.

The purpose of pet therapy is to help someone cope recover from a mental disorder or health problem, according to an article from Healthline.

Pet therapy can help to improve self-esteem, social skills, decrease loneliness and isolation, and help to lessen depression.

With all of these benefits, there are, of course, risks with having or getting a therapy animal, the risks are mostly health related, such as allergies, and while uncommon, the patient could be injured if an unsuitable animal is used for therapy.

According to an article from Healthline, in order to get a therapy pet, you have to undergo training and take an evaluation to ensure that you are not allergic to pet dander. Animals in pet therapy programs also have to be screened for possible behavior and health issues.

Pet therapy is becoming a more common way of coping with things that everyday people struggle with, like anxiety.

Former student Amanda Buckheit is currently in the process of getting a therapy dog for social anxiety. “ She calms down anxiety and provides brief escapes,” said Buckheit. She had to get a note from both her  doctor and her dog’s vet records.

Pet therapy, sometimes, is not just for one individual, sometimes a whole school will go to a therapy animal for comfort.

Dog therapy is  being incorporated into schools and universities across the country, and research has shown that therapy dogs can reduce stress and provide a sense of comfort.

Schools with therapy dogs have seen an increase in school attendance, improved motivation, and decreases in anxiety during things like the first day of school and testing. Therapy dogs are also used as someone for the children to practice reading to, without the stress of messing up in front of another student.

Therapy dogs at schools are typically owned by someone who works at the school, who can take them home at the end of the day.

There is even an organization, called Pawsitivity, that rescues dogs and trains them to be therapy dogs for teachers to use for special education classrooms. Dogs from the Pawsitivity program have helped special education students to improve their communication skills with the other students. All of the students spend time with the class therapy dog, so the special education students will use the dog as a sort of ice breaker, to start up a conversation.

Therapy dogs and service dogs are also very different; therapy dogs do not have special permits to get into places that do not allow animals, while service dogs do. Service dogs are specifically trained to help people with physical disabilities, such as visual or hearing difficulties, seizure disorders, and more.