People develop based on relationships with others. Bringing animals and humans together creates the opportunity for this unique relationship to be utilized as a catalyst for reaching therapeutic goals (AAT). Even when the goals are not documented, animals have a unique ability to create an environment that is intrinsically therapeutic and beneficial in socialization, recreation, and in a reduction of stress (AAA). In addition, animals can teach us in many ways abut our own characters with their organic acceptance, lack of judgment as well as the ability to be in the present moment.
Pet therapy utilizes this basic human desire for contact with animals to assist in therapy, education, and therapeutic recreation, all the while encouraging pro-social behaviors, de-mystifying or humanizing clinical settings, assisting in reading skills, and disguising unpleasant therapies with the distraction and presence of an animal.
What is Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)?
“AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of practice of his/her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning. AAT is provided in a variety of settings and may be group or individual in nature. This process is documented and evaluated.” (Delta Society 1992 Handbook for Animal-Assisted Activities and Animal-Assisted Therapy, Renton, WA: Delta Society).
What is Animal-Assisted Education (AAE)?
AAE utilizes the non-judgmental nature and novelty of reading to an animal to assist in increasing a child’s desire to read, while improving their fluency and overall aptitude. AAE also incorporates bite prevention and humane education in order to broaden a student’s understanding of different animals, and by reaching a better understanding of other animals we can work to increase each child’s overall empathy and ultimately their character development.
What are Animal-Assisted Activities/Recreation (AAA/AAR)?
AAA/AAR are basically the casual ‘meet and greet’ activities that involve pets visiting people. The same activity can be repeated with many people, unlike a therapy program that is tailored to a particular person or medical condition.