Animal Assisted Therapy

animal assisted therapy

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs

I have a special announcement before I get started. In the interest of full disclosure, I must make an admission that will send shockwaves around the world – I hate dogs. Please forgive me, but they aren’t my thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I have great fun playing with them. I like scratching behind their ears and I don’t mind rubbing their bellies. But I only like doing those things when it’s someone else’s dog. Why? Because once I’m done playing and petting them, I get to go home without them. I don’t have to feed them, I don’t have to get them washed, and I don’t have to walk around the neighborhood with a plastic grocery bag to pick up their poop.

Another reason I’m not fond of dogs is because they are way too damned co-dependent. They demand to be loved even when you’re not interested. If a dog wants to cuddle or play, you can toss them across the room and they’ll come running back and lick your hand. Leave me the hell alone, dammit! Don’t worry, I’ve never tossed a dog across a room.

Californians, and more specifically, Angelinos, love their dogs. They are everywhere. In parks, dog parks, malls, stores, grocery stores and restaurants. How can people take them to all these places where dogs are not allowed? Because of Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy

The benefits of animal assisted therapy are many. According to the Mayo Clinic, animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems:

• Children having dental procedures
• People receiving cancer treatment
• People in long-term care facilities
• People hospitalized with chronic heart failure
• Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

In addition to the benefits listed by the Mayo Clinic, the American Humane Society goes on to say Animal Assisted Therapy has been shown to help children who have experienced abuse or neglect, patients undergoing chemotherapy or other difficult medical treatments, and veterans and their families who are struggling to cope with the effects of wartime military service.

I’ve seen the healing power of dogs. I’ve had friends in the hospital whose faces lit up the second a dog was brought in to the room. But are there really that many service animals? I mean there are dogs in women’s purses all over the place, and when management asks about the animal, they are told the dog is a service animal.

The Laws

When I worked with the public, I was trained to advise people that pets were not allowed in the store, but if I was told it was a service animal we were to smile, and let the person continue to shop. We were told that we were not allowed to ask for paper documentation because it was illegal to do so.

Lately, however, I am seeing signs, on doors, advising people that they must provide documentation that their animal is for assisted animal therapy. Did they change the law or was I misinformed by my former employer? I have been told by friends working in the service industry that they are still told not to ask for papers to avoid lawsuits. Is that what it is? It is legal to ask, but stores are afraid to ask? I’ve googled for the California laws a dozen times and I can’t find anything regarding the legality of asking for proof.

Are People Abusing the System?

I’ll probably get some flak for saying this, but I have a hard time believing so many people need service animals. There’re everywhere. I know that mental health disorders are invisible. That I should never judge a person’s insides based on their outsides. However, I have a hard time accepting that all the women walking around Beverly Hills with dogs in their Gucci bags have a medical need for their dogs. I think it bothers me because I believe in animal assisted therapy so much that I don’t want to see the laws abused.

In conclusion, despite my lack of love for canines, I think Animal Assisted Therapy is an excellent thing and I’m happy the little pups can bring so much life out of people that need it. I just hope that the number of people abusing the system is not nearly as high as it appears. Abuse of the system leads to more restrictive laws, which could make it more difficult for those who truly benefit from the program. I guess, in the end, it’s probably better to let a few sleazebags take advantage of the program, if it means more help to people who really need it.

16 comments on Animal Assisted Therapy

  1. Personally, I love dogs. I love all animals. But, I would never lie and say my dog is a service dog. I would never even think about it. I’m sure there are some people who do abuse the priviledge. In the past my dogs have saved my life. Literally. Not everyone is an animal person.

    1. Thank you for the comment, JackieP. The number who abuse the privilege is probably small, but it just seems like they are everywhere. When I was a kid I had dogs, cats, gerbils, fish, etc. My mom always said she loves animals, she just loves them outdoors. I’ve pretty much become my mom. I don’t hate dogs like I let on, I just say that to rile up all my dog worshiping friends. 🙂

  2. My sister lies that her fat little Chihuahua is a therapy dog so that she can have him at her “No dogs allowed” apartment. And it pisses and shits EVERYWHERE! No thank you!

  3. I would love to have a service dog for depression, but I have a 20.5 year old cat and couldn’t possibly subject her to the stress a puppy would surely cause her. So, for now, I can’t get one. I love dogs, cats, horses, animals!

  4. Just as people use medical marijuana to get high and not because they need it medically, I’m sure there are people who just want to carry their dogs with them everywhere. As to the therapeutic benefit of animals, my mother has benefitted from dogs and Guinea pigs at her current assisted living community. They have birds and cats, too. It’s wonderful. When we first entered, two golden retrievers met my parents in the lobby. As my mother cannot speak since her stroke, nonverbal communication with animals is wonderful.

    1. That is wonderful to read. Animals have an amazing effect on people. Proof of that is all the cat videos on Facebook. Golden retrievers are especially loving. They shed too much and chew too much, but definitely loving.

  5. As far as I know in South Africa we only have guide dogs for the blind. I stand to be corrected. Twenty odd years ago when my mother was in hospital, psych ward, my dad and I smuggled our little poodle into the hospital for a (illegal) visit. She was thrilled lol

    1. Therapy dogs have become very common here. I don’t know when it started, but I noticed it about 10 years ago. Great for many who have depression, anxiety, etc

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