Animal therapy: Friend or Foe?

“Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. It also involves the animal’s handler. The purpose of pet therapy is to help someone recover from or cope with a health problem or mental disorder.” It is also used to brighten people’s day and used as a stress reliever. Most people in this community, including me believe this does help patients and society mentally. It clears people’s minds and makes them happy which leads to a better life. Animal therapy is also used in hospitals to help patients. But other people also think the animal therapy has no scientific back up. I do not see harm in animal therapy just as long as we make sure the animals are clean and free of virus that can negatively impact patients at a hospital.

Animal therapy, or assisted animal therapy is used as a quick and fun way to cope with many types of issues in an average human life. These issues can be related to depression, physical therapy, and even just for a nice day of yoga. Who would have thought that this would have become an issue? Well believe it or not there are people who are opposed to this idea. Nurse Bridgid goes on to explain the cons of animal therapy:

One reason why one, very outspoken, Medical Doctor, is very anti Animal Assisted Therapy is because he thinks of the animals as vectors to transmit disease and bacteria; not that the animals themselves are dirty, but that so many people pet the animals without washing their hands, and even if I do clean my hands, I could (theoretically) obtain others bacteria from my hands.

They make a good point don’t they? Sure you’re in a hospital full of many viruses and bacterias floating around but these pacients get a say in whether they want to see these animals or not. They go on to talk about another good point: “There are very few bacteria/viruses that dogs and humans can share in common, so the concern is strictly with bacteria that might travel from patient to patient. Of course, there is also the risk that some patients have low immune systems from their disease process or are allergic.” Again this is a good point. These animals can become carriers for these viruses and they can spread throughout the hospital and even to the workers of the hospital. But these animals are required to be cleaned every time before they are sent to a new patient. At the end of the day these patients of the hospital have a say in whether or not they want to be exposed to these animals.

The other side to this argument says that these animals are beneficial for people in many ways. Most people agree that animals bring happiness and joy to other people. A local library in Minnesota brought in a therapy dog named Wilson. Wilson is a 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever mix. He was brought to the library by his owner. Wilson and his owner Bann are part of the “Paws to Read” program which is a program where children read aloud to dogs in order to improve their reading skills. Bann goes on to explain the benefits of having a therapy dogs: “Animals have the ability to touch people in many different ways. They are loving, nonjudgmental and make a unique connection with people. This just sounded like a pretty awesome way to help others, and I was curious to see how it would pan out so I decided to give it a try.” People may say this is not a form of therapy and I tend to agree but I will also say that this act is beneficial for children as for the dog. This form gives children a chance to learn how to re-allowed without getting nervous about a huge audience listening to them. It also makes the “children feel accomplished once they have finished a book” says a research website about the benefits of children reading to dogs.

In my opinion both sides seem to have good facts and observations to back up there opinions on animal therapy. I will say I am with the side that is for animal therapy. I know from personal experience that I always enjoy the comfort of animals no matter what I am doing. Animals have always been a huge part of my life and they will continue to be. Animals how this way of knowing when something is wrong, and when they do they are there to offer there comfort towards you. Bann was right, they do not talk back and they don’t give you their opinions, they just lie there and listen. I think animal therapy is a great way to help this community spread animal awareness. Once people see and realize the amazing impact animals can have on a person, maybe we will all soon one day learn how to respect and treat animals.