Happy National Therapy Animal Day!
April 30th is National Therapy Animal Day, a day to recognize and celebrate all the amazing therapy animals who partner with their human handlers to give back to their communities. The holiday was created by Pet Partners, the nation’s leading organization in registering therapy animals for animal-assisted interventions. The organization registers 9 species of therapy animals including dogs, cats, equines, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas, birds, miniature pigs and even rats.
So, what exactly do therapy animal teams do? To understand their impact, think about how incredible you feel after spending time with your pets. Therapy animals and their human handlers volunteer in their communities and bring those special feels to people in a variety of settings such hospitals, airports, pediatric care units, schools and assisted living facilities.
Ever wonder if your pet would be a good therapy animal candidate? Here are a few qualities to look for.
- They’re people-oriented. Therapy animals not only tolerate, but they welcome, interactions with strangers. Pets who would rather meet new human friends than animal friends make especially great therapy animals, as therapy animals are expected to devote all their attention to humans during their visits!
- They meet the age requirement. Due to safety concerns for animals and the humans they visit, Pet Partners requires pets be at least one year old at the time of their evaluation, or six months old for rabbits, guinea pigs and rats. (If you have a young animal, check out these helpful tips for preparing them for future therapy work!)
- They don’t scare easily. Therapy animals may be exposed to strange sounds and equipment, such as when visiting a patient recovering at a hospital or a classroom full of young children. Your pet should remain calm, cool and collected when placed in new situations and environments.
- They demonstrate obedience and good manners. Therapy animals are required to be on a leash at all times during their visits, and they should respond to basic obedience commands. In addition to this, aspiring therapy animals should be well behaved and know not to jump on or paw others.
- They LOVE human contact. Depending on the day, a therapy animal may meet children, hospice patients, elderly adults, college students, and more when they’re out and about on a visit. If your pet enjoys receiving pets and attention from strangers, regardless of their age and physical and mental abilities, there’s a good chance they would make a pawsome therapy animal.