13000 registered therapy animals make 3 million visits a year to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and businesses. They use the power of the human animal bond to give pediatric cancer patients hope, to increase life expectancy, and to improve the productivity of businesses.
Three Classes of Service
There are three classes of service animals. Each is defined by what service the animal provides.
According to the Alliance for Therapy Dogs, “Service dogs (animals) are trained to perform tasks and to do work that eases their handlers’ disabilities. Working as part of a team with their disabled partners, service dogs help them attain safety and independence.” Under the Americans With Disabilities Act only dogs and miniature horses can be recognized as service animals. Service animals are allowed to accompany their disabled partners to public spaces like restaurants, airports, and grocery stores. It is not recommended that you interact with a service animal while it is in company of its disabled partner as this might distract the animal from its work.
Assistance and Emotional Service Animals
According to Fox Rothschild attorneys at law, “An ‘assistance animal‘ is defined under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as an animal that works, provides assistance or emotional support that alleviates one of more symptoms of a person’s disability”. An emotional service animal is a subset of all assistance animals and, according to the U.S. Service Animals Organization, “is an animal that provides comfort just by being with a person.” Assistance and emotional support animals are not covered by the ADA and therefore are not afforded the same public access as service animals. Because of protection under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, emotional support animals are permitted to live in housing that would otherwise prohibit pets and allowed to ride in the cabin space of aircraft. Assistance/emotional service animals can include animals like cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and even snakes!
According to Pet Partners, America’s largest animal therapy resource center, “Therapy animals provide affection and comfort to members of the public, typically in facility settings such as hospitals, assisted living, and schools. These pets have a special aptitude for interacting with members of the public and enjoy doing so.”
Therapy Animals are Used In A Variety of Settings
Pet Partners, America’s largest data base of therapy animals, connects businesses, schools, hospitals, hospice centers, oncology departments, and retirement facilities to therapy animals. Therapy animals are used to assist veterans with PTSD, seniors with Alzheimers Disease, students struggling with literacy, end-of-life patients, and businesses interested in lowering stress, increasing happiness, and improving the productivity of employees. Interaction with therapy animals is thought to lower blood pressure, increase happiness, increase the ability to learn and to interact with the world better, to heal faster, and to reduce pain. For more on the value of therapy animals, visit healthline.com. While the Pet Partners data base is 94% dogs, there are also cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas, horses, rats, and miniature pigs on the list.
One Horse Decides For Himself Which Patients To See
One therapy animal’s story is especially inspiring. Meet Peyo, a stallion that is taken to hospitals and allowed to interact with patients. Peyo is never led to a particular patient, rather Peyo remarkably decides for himself which patients he’ll visit. The results are incredibly moving as demonstrated by the video below.
Therapy Animal Volunteer Opportunities in NYC
There are 57 therapy animal volunteers in NYC that are registered with Pet Partners. Qualifications for registration with the group include training for the animal owner and a clean bill of health for the animal. Animals must also have the temperament for therapy work. For a full list of qualifications, you can visit the Pet Partner’s site.
The Power of the Human Animal Bond
Your pet doesn’t have to be listed as a service, emotional, or therapy animal to provide you with the healing benefits of the human animal bond. According to the CDC, the proven benefits of pet ownership include:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
In the same article the CDC also reminds pet owners of the importance of good hygiene when handling pets. All pets should be seen annually be a veterinarian, dewormed, and treated proactively for fleas and other parasites. For more on the CDC’s recommendations for pets and pet owners, visit the CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People webpage.