Can Any Animal Be a Therapy Animal?

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jul 21, 2014 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

VIDEO: Vet Battles to Keep 14 Therapeutic Ducks

An Ohio Army veteran made headlines this weekend when local officials told him to get rid of his therapy ducks.

Hold on. Therapy ducks?

Dogs once cornered the market on being therapy pets, but now bunnies, pigs – even llamas – are making their way into the laps and hearts of people with a range of conditions. But experts say some animals are more therapeutic than others.

“While we know that a wide variety of animals can be wonderful companions or pets, not every animal is suited to therapy work,” said Glen Miller, a spokesman for Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that trains and registers therapy animals.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months, according to Pet Partners. Though the organization registers “birds,” it does not register ducks, Miller said.

Pet Partners does not allow exotic or wild animals, either.

“We know many people have wonderful experiences with these animals as pets, but without research documenting their behavior over time, we cannot evaluate their predictability and reaction to stress,” the organization’s website reads.

Unlike service animals, therapy animals don’t help their owners perform tasks and are therefore not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though there are no national requirements to register therapy animals, most hospitals only allow ones that have been trained, aren’t easily stressed and are covered by an insurance policy.

Click through to read about some traditional and not-so-traditional bedside creatures.

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