Many people confuse what a therapy animal is used for. They are utilized with students to decrease stress and add to their level of comfort. They are not the same as service animals that work for their owners. These creatures have a mission to create a positive mood within an environment that may stress individuals. Thanks to this, there really is no reason to limit schools to only using therapy dogs. Although it is important to recognize that therapy dogs are usually certified through organizations like the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD).

Animal-assisted therapy works to improve physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive function in individuals. Goals may include improvement with PTSD, verbal interactions, self-esteem, attention skills, willingness to work within a group, and more. There are a variety of animals that have already been successfully used for animal assisted therapy. Dogs and cats are the most commonly seen therapy animals. Others that have been used include horses, hedgehogs, llamas, snakes, skunks, pigs, tarantulas, and rabbits. Several of these animals are included in stories about eight amazing therapy animals.

The beauty of animal assisted therapy is that it is flexible. It may be an animal going into a school building to greet children. That animal may go into a specific classroom every day. In addition to this, animals may be used to assist students individually or in small group sessions. If your school is interested in getting a therapy animal, look into contacting a non-profit organization like Pet Partners that will provide animal assisted interactions.

When considering a more unusual therapy animal, research their needs. Is there space for them within the school? How will the student population react to them? Is there a veterinarian that will be able to care for the animal on a regular basis and in an emergency? Therapy animals are a great long term goal for school, but take time to research them and have a therapist that will be trained to work with whatever animal your building selects.