Introduction to Pet Therapy

What is Pet Therapy?

Animal interaction for human benefit
There is lots of medical research that confirms the benefits of animal interactions for mental, emotional, and physical health. These interactions are called “Pet Therapy”. The most common therapy animals are dogs. However, other animals can be therapy animals too.

Technically, there are two types of Pet Therapy

  • Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)
    “Provides opportunities for motivation, education, or recreation to enhance quality of life.”
    These are basically the casual “meet and greet” activities that involve Pet Therapy teams visiting with folks in different environments. This is the most common type of Pet Therapy and what most people associate with the term “Pet Therapy”.
  • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
    “Goal directed intervention directed by a health care professional.” This is when a doctor has ordered pet therapy for a patient.

Pet Therapy Services

A Pet Therapy Team visits an organization to interact with the patients / clients. People get to pet the animal (who doesn’t mind all the attention at all), talk with it, talk with the handler, reminiscence about their previous pets, and enjoy the social bonding that occurs.

Visits are commonly made to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, medical facilities, specialized treatment units (psychiatric units, oncology, Alzheimers and more) rehab facilities, universities, children’s homes, homeless shelters, and more.

Learn more about this service on the Pet Therapy Team Visits page.

Pet Therapy Dog Bite Prevention
Dog Bite Prevention
Pet Therapy teams may offer a program for both children and adults to help them be safe around dogs. They learn techniques that will protect them when they interact with dogs.

Programs are commonly presented elementary and middle schools, libraries, scout meetings, and more.

Learn more about this service on the Dog Bite Prevention page.

Pet Therapy Read Program
Dogs in particular can actually help children learn to read! By reading to the dog, a child can overcome shyness or hesitation in reading aloud, thus improving their reading skills.

Reading programs are typically presented in elementary and middle schools, special ed classes, libraries, and more.

Learn more about pet therapy reading programs on the Reading Programs page

Pet Therapy Teams

A Pet Therapy Team consists of an animal (most of the time a dog) and a handler (always a human)
Many kinds of domesticated animals are eligible to be part of an Pet Therapy Team, such as dogs, cats, small rodents, pigs, horses, and others. Some animals are not appropriate, such as aggressive animals or any that have been trained for police or attack work.

The difference between Therapy animals and service animals
A service dog provides a service to his owner or handler. A therapy dog provides a service to everyone except his owner or handler.

Pet Therapy Teams should be registered.
Registration is extremely important for both the Pet Therapy Team and the places they visit. Registered Teams have passed an evaluation to determine their suitability for Pet Therapy and have liability insurance. Unregistered Teams are a safety hazard and liability risk to both the Team and the places they visit. If a pet were to bite someone, both the handler and the organization are liable for the injuries. The handler for having an untrained animal, and the organization for letting an unregistered Team into the facility. Learn more…

Are you interested in becoming a Pet Therapy team?
Check out the How To Become A Pet Therapy Team page to find out what is required and how to get started. If you have additional questions, use the convenient Contact Form to get in touch with me.

Would you like a visit or special program from a Pet Therapy Team?
Use the convenient Contact Form to let me know what you are interested in.

This website is a public service staffed by volunteers. We strive to make all the information in the site current, correct, and concise. Please contact us if you find any errors or omissions.