By Steve Feldman, Executive Director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)
April 30th marks National Therapy Animal Day, an important day to celebrate the work that therapy animals and their handlers do for people in communities across the country. PFI welcomes Steve Feldman with HABRI to highlight the important research in this field.
At schools, nursing homes, hospitals, airports, and even in the aftermath of tragedy, therapy animals are there. Therapy animals and their handlers have gone through the training and preparation to safely visit these places, bringing joy and comfort to so many people.
Science is helping to pave the way for more places to welcome animal therapy as a complimentary treatment for people in need. Scientific research has demonstrated the benefits of animal therapy and other animal-assisted activities for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, elderly people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and for stressed hospital patients and their families.
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) is a non-profit organization that funds scientific research on the health benefits of pets – also known as the human-animal bond – so that companion animals will be universally embraced as an essential element of human wellness. HABRI relies on generous support from a number of leading companies and organizations, including the Pet Food Institute, to fund its research and education activities.
HABRI-funded research projects broadly examine the impacts of animal-assisted therapies, interventions and human-animal interaction. Most recently, HABRI-funded research projects have found:
- The inclusion of therapy dogs in social skills training for children with autism was effective in facilitating a greater level of change in social skills, perspective taking, and decreased feelings of isolation and depression in the children.
- Therapy dog visits to children undergoing cancer treatment had a calming effect on the patients and helped reduce anxiety in their parents.
- Service dogs are an effective, complementary treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and help to reduce overall PTSD symptom severity.
Scientific research documenting the positive benefits of human-animal interaction must be part of the equation for policymakers, health care professionals and other decision-makers. HABRI looks forward to providing a strong pipeline of research results that support the broad use of animal therapy, as well as the important health benefits of pet ownership.
On April 30th and every day, HABRI celebrates all that therapy animals do to make a difference in the lives of so many people.
Steven Feldman is Executive Director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). To learn more about HABRI, please visit www.habri.org.