Pet Therapy

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Pet therapy can be dated as far back as prehistory time when humans noticed that animals were not only used for food, but they were also friends and companions. Animal-facilitated therapy is one of the newer forms of medicine used throughout the nation. The origin of animal-facilitated therapy can be traced as far back as 18th century. The York Retreat, founded in 1792 by the Quaker merchant William Tuke, was cited to be the first use of animal-facilitated therapy. Instead of harsh forms of treatment, the York Retreat emphasized positive means to control behavior. Animals could be found all over the retreat, and the patients were encouraged to learn to care after them. The York Retreat is used as a model today in the form of animal-facilitated therapy (Cusack 2).

The earliest form of animal-facilitated therapy in the United States was when Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane suggested using dogs with psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C (Hooker 18). Pawling Army Air Force Convalescent Hospital at Pawling, New York introduced pet therapy in 1942. The patients were encouraged to work with many farm animals as well as engage in academic studies. Amphibians were also used from the nearby forest as pets for the patients. The patients would hold frog jumping contests and turtle races which inspired a competitive spirit and provided an educational background (Cusack 3). Pet therapy was finally considered a legitimate therapeutic use in 1961 when Dr. Boris Levinson documented his observations (Hooker 18).

There are a few different classified types of pet therapy. Animal-assisted activities or animal-facilitated therapy, animal-assisted therapy, and pet-facilitated therapy are the main types of therapy used. A newer form of therapy called canine candy striping started at UCLA in 1994, has also become a popular method. Researchers are beginning to distinguish between animal-assisted activities, which are practiced in over 600 hospitals nationwide and animal-assisted therapy which is a newer discipline where dogs are used by doctors to reach a specific goal (Roosevelt 2). Studies show that animals, pets in general, make humans better people. Having a pet makes you live longer, be happier, live healthier, and more sociable (Cusack 4). Doctors, therapists, and researchers have argued the fact whether pet therapy is a healthy and effective way to treat patients. Should doctors and therapists start prescribing pets instead of medicine to their patients?

The first type of animal therapy is animal-assisted activities (AAA). This therapy is performed by trained professionals with the accompaniment of animals that meet specific criteria. AAA are used for multiple patients and are more of a “sit down” and “play” time. A therapist is not sitting with the patient taking notes such as, ‘what are the patient’s actions showing’ (About 2)?

Many different types of animals may be used for pet therapy. The most common ones however are dogs and cats. Hospitals and nursing homes are starting to permit the use of more animals like rabbits, small rodents such as mice and gerbils, and birds. Dogs and cats do provide the best potential for therapeutic use, but they are more expensive to groom and care for (Cusack 85-91). The most important quality of the animals used for therapy is that they should have a calm personality and they must be people oriented. Cats and small dogs are very good to use because they can fit on about anyone’s lap. A large dog would be perfect for a patient in a wheelchair so the patient could stroke its hair. Pawprints and Purrs Inc. states, “They provide an invaluable service to those who are lonely, abandoned, or ill; indeed, anyone who needs the miraculous healing that can arise from a hug and a gentle touch (2).”

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is another method used on patients. This method does have specific goals for the patient to meet. Catanzaro...
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