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We have noted the following frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers regarding Pet Therapy, Emotional Support Animals, and Psychiatric Service Dogs. These questions cover topics related to Pet Therapy, Emotional Support Animals, and PSD, including their purpose, legal requirements, and how they can benefit individuals with mental health conditions.

RJimenez PetTherapy
  • What is Pet Therapy?
    Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT), is a type of guided interaction between an individual and a trained animal accompanied by its handler. The primary goal of pet therapy is to help people recover or manage health problems and mental disorders. Typically, dogs and cats are used in pet therapy, but other animals such as fish, guinea pigs, and horses that meet specific screening criteria can also be employed depending on the therapeutic goals of a person's treatment plan. It is important to note that AAT is distinct from animal-assisted activities (AAA), which involve more casual meetings between an animal, its handler, and one or more people for comfort or recreation, whereas AAT is a structured set of sessions designed to help people achieve specific treatment goals. Pet therapy builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond and can help address physical and mental issues. Interacting with a friendly pet can lead to a reduction in blood pressure, an improvement in overall cardiovascular health, and the release of endorphins that produce a calming effect. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state.
  • What are some of the benefits of Pet Therapy?
    Pet therapy can be used in various ways, and defined objectives are an essential part of therapy. Progress is recorded and tracked at structured sessions. The goals of a pet therapy program can include improving motor skills and joint movement, increasing self-esteem, verbal communication, social skills, willingness to join in activities, improving interactions with others, and motivating willingness to exercise. Other benefits of pet therapy include making you happier, lessening depression, and improving your outlook on life, decreasing loneliness and isolation by giving you a companion, reducing boredom, reducing anxiety because of its calming effects, helping children learn empathic and nurturing skills, and improving the relationship between you and your healthcare provider.
  • What is a Therapy animal?
    Therapy animals, including dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, and small reptiles, are trained to provide comfort and affection and are encouraged to interact with a variety of people.
  • What are some of the risks involving Pet Therapy?
    Pet therapy is generally safe. However, those who are afraid of or dislike animals may not benefit. Those with weak immune systems should consult their healthcare team beforehand. Those with allergies or open wounds should also be cautious.
  • What is an Emotional Support Animal?
    "An emotional support animal" refers to a pet that provides therapeutic support to individuals with mental or emotional disabilities. These animals are not trained to perform specific tasks like service animals, but their presence alone can help alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness. ESA sare protected under HUD. For some persons with disabilities, an ESA may be necessary to afford them equal housing opportunities. ESAs are not protected under ADA or DOT.
  • What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
    Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are dogs trained to support people with disabilities due to mental health illness. These conditions can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and panic disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among others. Psychiatric service dogs are different from emotional support dogs. PSDs are fully trained and perform specific tasks rather than providing comfort. Tasks may include providing tactile stimulation, distracting or redirecting your attention, bringing you medication, or getting you help when needed. If you wonder how a PSD or an ESA may help you, speak with your healthcare provider or mental health professional.
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