Animals are incredible creatures who can help us in ways that we might not realize. Although therapy animals aren’t widely known about, they have shown to help improve many mental health struggles that humans can have.
What is a therapy animal?
A therapy animal is a specially trained and certified pet who provides emotional and mental support to a person, often in public settings. While dogs and cats are the most common
therapy animals, people can find comfort in a range of animals.
But a therapy animal is different from an emotional support animal who, as its name suggests, provides emotional support but isn’t certified to visit hospitals and schools. A therapy animal is also different from a service/guide animal, who performs daily tasks for someone who has physical disabilities. Both emotional support and service/guide animals spend their entire lives with one person.
How do therapy animals help?
Therapy animals make regular visits to hospitals, retirement homes, schools, and other places to help both children and adults improve not only their mental health but also physical health. By forming a connection, a therapy animal can help with:
Relieving stress and anxiety
Encouraging exercise, movement, and other physical activity
Increasing social skills and self-esteem
Ways to celebrate National Therapy Animal Day
If you or someone you know has benefited from a therapy animal, here are a few ideas to share the love for our furry companions on National Therapy Animal Day, which is April 30:
Share photos and videos on social media and include the hashtag #nationaltherapyanimalday to spread the word
Contact your local media to share your therapy animal story
Recognize and honour therapy animals and their handlers/trainers
Why you shouldn’t lie about having a therapy animal
It’s never okay to lie and say your pet is a therapy animal so you can take them inside a store, school, or other indoor public place. Therapy animals are specially trained to handle being touched by strangers and are comfortable in public situations. If your pet has an accident or bites another person, it can ruin therapy animals’ reputation, which they’ve worked hard to achieve.
How to get involved with animal therapy
If you’re interested in animal therapy for yourself, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. You can also visit Counselling BC or BC Psychological Association and search their directory for animal assisted counsellors. If you work for a facility and are interested in organizing a visit from a therapy animal, contact Pets and Friends.