Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is growing by leaps and bounds all around the world. The earliest cases were that of psychiatric patients utilizing dogs which seemed to have a calming effect on the agitated. For the past few decades, a variety of animals have worked in a variety of settings. Schools, prisons, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and outpatient programs are seeing the many benefits of 'All Creatures Great and Small.'
Trained handlers may set a goal to achieve social, physical, emotional and cognitive improvement using their animals. Benefits are for adults and children alike. Some studies have shown that stroking an animal releases endorphins, the chemical in the body that suppresses pain. Heart attack survivors may lower their blood pressure and improve their survival rates when an animal is added to their medical regime. Rehabilitation patients may increase fine motor skills through grooming, petting and feeding, and gross motor skills while walking or jogging with a horse, or throwing a ball to a dog for example.
Man's Best Friends aren't the only critters trained in AAT... included are many domestic, farm and marine species. (And, yes they use fish too!) Therapy animals are thoroughly trained and tested, (not the fish,ahem) and receive a certificate or license to provide needed services. Handlers generally visit these facilities on a volunteer basis. "I'm so happy for Buddy that he went from being dumped in a park, to animal control, then to me and now he shows his love with school children who read to him. The presence of a dog is very disarming and puts people at ease. Buddy is a Pit Bull mix and a great ambassador for that type of dog," commented Leslie Yager of her efforts with local children.
Did ya know????