The Whole Bowl

Pet Partners Celebrates Human-Animal Interaction on National Therapy Animal Day

By Annie Peters

President & CEO, Pet Partners

Many of us may have a pet, but have you considered the specific ways that he or she helps you throughout the day? We are greeted by our pets when we walk through the front door, pet and play with them, and even exercise together. In fact, your pet is part of an exciting story. Data shows that human-animal interaction can bring many benefits to our lives. The human-animal bond, which is the documented beneficial relationship between people and animals, can support our mental and physical well-being. Pet Partners, the nation’s largest and most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species for animal-assisted interventions, is proud to further advance this field and celebrate the many ways animals impact us.

For 40 years, Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society), has worked to support human health through positive interactions with therapy animals, also known as animal-assisted interventions. Scientific studies conducted over the last several decades have documented a range of ways that companion and therapy animals can support human health and wellbeing, including pain management and mitigation, improved mobility and physical activity, stress reduction and concomitant lowering in blood pressure and reduction of cardiovascular risk and/or improved survival following heart attacks.

Our website features some of the top research in this field. For example, evidence suggests that:

  • Human-animal interaction supports the release of oxytocin, a neuropepetide that promotes stress release and focus[1];
  • Patients who receive a total joint arthroplasty reported low pain levels and higher satisfaction with their hospital stay after interactions with therapy dogs[2];
  • The presence of an animal can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder[3];
  • Pet ownership, perhaps through the associated social network, can help lower blood pressure[4].

Pet Partners is dedicated to supporting safe animal-assisted interventions across the country, and helping populations achieve some of the results listed above. With our more than 15,000 therapy animal teams, the Pet Partners network is able to visit healthcare centers, schools, retirement communities and other facilities. Through these visits, teams in the Pet Partner network can help lessen worry and anxiety, and promote wellbeing. We even work with animals of all shapes and sizes, from dogs and cats to rabbits and llamas.

This National Therapy Animal Day (April 30) is an opportunity to further celebrate the benefits of animal-assisted interventions and recognize the animals providing comfort across the nation. Visit our website at www.petpartners.org to learn more about ways that you can become involved and support this important field. Together, we can raise awareness about therapy animals and their role in advancing wellbeing for the communities who need it most.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/

[2] Harper CM, Dong Y, Thornhill TS, et al. Can therapy dogs improve pain and satisfaction after total joint arthroplasty? A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® 2014;473(1):372-79.

[3] O’Haire ME, McKenzie SJ, Beck AM, Slaughter V (2013). Social Behaviors Increase in Children with Autism in the Presence of Animals Compared to Toys. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57010. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057010

[4] Allen, K., Shykoff, B. E., & Joseph L. Izzo, J. (2001). Pet ownership, but not ACE inhibitor therapy, blunts home blood pressure responses to mental stress. Hypertension, 38, 815-820.