What is Animal-Assisted Therapy ?

This page is about the therapeutic
contributions animals make to human healing.


Information on this website should not be construed as medical or therapy advice and is provided only as general information. Please consult your physician and other health professionals for specific advice.

  • Provide unconditional love and friendship
  • Promote trust
  • Increase motivation
  • Stimulate senses
  • Decrease stress
  • Teach responsibility
  • Promote positive physiological changes
  • Help teach language, motor and cognitive skills.

Occupational therapists Diana Henry and Deanna Iris Sava authors of Sensory Tools for Pets describe how pets and people mutually help one another.


pet therapy
Research has shown that pets are good for your health.
Heart attack victims who have pets live longer. Petting a
pet reduces blood pressure. Pets in nursing homes boost
morale and  promote social interaction. Watching fish
in an aquarium is relaxing and reduces stress symptoms.

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves an
animal with specific
characteristics becoming a fundamental part of
a person's treatment. Other terms such as
Pet therapy  may be used
to describe therapeutic interactions between animals and humans.
However, this term may be misleading since  several decades ago
it referred to animal behavior training programs.

Animal workers may  include:
  • Dogs- provide companionship, tactile and movement stimulation
  • Cats- generally tolerate petting for longer periods of time
  • Small mammals such as hamsters or bunnies that are easy
  • to hold and pet.
  • Birds may promote speech. Visually impaired children
  • brought into an aviary experience the sensation of birds in flight.
  • Horses provide movement experiences Hippotherapy
  • Fish- may be used for relaxation and visual stimulation
  • Larger mammals on farms such as sheep and pigs can
  • be used to teach routines such as grooming and feeding.
  • Dolphins help children with critical/terminal illness,
  • emotional, and/or physical challenges during poolside play
    or swimming with dolphins.
  • Elephants-Animal-assistedtherapy.com/elphant-assisted-therapy.html
  • http://www.elephanttherapy.org
animal assisted elephants
The Department of Occupational Therapy at Chiang Mai
University in Thailand organized an exhibition entitled
"Results of Thai-Elephant-assisted Therapy Program in
Individuals with Autism."  The exhibition was shown March, 2008.

animal assisted llamaShangrila Farm in Virginia raises therapy llamas.
Some of them work with special needs children
at the Lewis Gale Clinic in Roanoke. Learn how the
clicker and reward system is used to to train the
llamas. As soon as the babies hit the ground they
are desensitized and taught to trust. They are halter
and lead trained as soon as possible and taught to carry a pack.

animal assisted therapy miniature horsesTherapet.org/animals_minis.php
Miniature horses are used at Therapet Animal Assisted
Therapy Foundation.
They have to pass a temperament test,
veterinary screening, and
attend training sessions yearly
to maintain their certification.

animal assisted therapyPhoto courtesy: Therapet Animal Assisted Therapy Foundation.
15632 Hwy. 110 S. Suite 7,
Whitehouse, TX 75791
Pads N' Paws is the training center used by the Therapet
Foundation to train their dogs for work in hospitals and
rehabilitation centers throughout East Texas. They have
medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, and
hospital beds to allow these dogs in training to practice
the skills needed to work in these environments.

Watch a variety of pet therapy videos that show patients in schools,
nursing homes,
rehabilitation hospitals and other settings.

Who Benefits from Animal- Assisted Therapy?

animal assisted therapy animal assisted therapy animal assisted therapy animal assisted therapy

Troubled Teens
Teens may struggle with emotional and behavioral issues, experiment
with drugs
or alcohol or suffer from an unstable home. Professionally
trained animals may be used as part of the counseling process.

animal assisted therapyCrossroadsgrouphome.com/CGHAATWhat.html
Crossroads Group Home uses an Animal Assisted Therapy
Program stressing the benefits of animals and birds of
many varieties. 
Having animals  facilitate a variety of
 benefits such as reducing stress related to PTSD and
hastening recovery.
Animals can be an emotional outlet
as residents communicate using verbal and non-verbal
techniques with animals in the Crossroads Group Home

These puppies reduce stress and self-injurious behavior in a young man with autism:

Children with Critical/Terminal Illness and/or Special Needs

animal assisted therapy dolphins
Island Dolphin Care provides dolphin- assisted therapy.
The activities range from hands-on interactions with the
dolphin from the floating platform, to in-water
interactions with the dolphin.

I like how this boy begins with a simple, fun tossing activity to get comfortable
with the dolphin (and work on many skills) before entering the water.

Senior Citizens and Alzheimer's Victims

animal assisted therapy birdWhether interacting with feathered friends, mammals or
gazing at
colorful tropical fish animals provide visual,

auditory and tactile stimulation and companionship to the elderly population.

A study examines whether a robotic pet can ease loneliness for nursing home residents
Animals to the Rescue
Pets and the Aging
It's the Dog-gonedest Thing!
A Golden Retriever Named Tangie makes Therapy fun in Florida

animal assisted therapy
PAWSitive InterAction Inc., a non-profit alliance of premier
local organizations, is bound together by a common
commitment to
promote and celebrate the positive impact of the human-
animal bond.

animal assisted therapy delta
The Delta Society provides articles
about animals
as healers and the
benefits to patients with:

  • Lung transplants
  • Decreased immune function
  • Breast cancer recovery
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Depression
  • Emotional trauma
  • Children with divorce crises
  • Developmental delays
  • Sexual abuse victims
  • Autism

animal assisted therapy dogsEast Central Therapy Dog Website
Undeterred by human illness, handicap, disfigurement,
confusion or tears, with no prejudice against creed,
color, religion or politics, these Therapy Dogs calm the
anxious, cheer the lonely, distract the pain-ridden and comfort the despondent.

Prison Inmates
Another therapeutic application of animals occurs in correctional facilities through
programs in which inmates train animals to place in the community as service animals
to help people with disabilities. The inmates learn vocational skills such as animal
grooming, training and boarding.
Check out:
Prison-Based Dog Training Programs: Rehabilitation for Canine and Human

animal assisted therapy
Dogwood Therapy Services Inc.
is a private occupational therapy
practice owned by Melissa Y. Winkle, OTR/L that offers opportunities
to improve independent living and vocational skills in natural and
integrated community settings. She uses nature, animal assisted
therapy and assistance dogs as assistive technology options.

©2008 Barbara Smith  
More Videos of Animals Helping People

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