Pets have been an important part of the lives of human beings throughout the evolution of humankind. All kinds of animals throughout history have been kept as pets. Guinea pigs have been companions to royalty and sources of protein for sailors at various times in the past. The list of uses and roles which animals have performed is nearly endless when you look back through time.
Animals have long played a vital role in human civilization. From the early days of mining where canaries would be used to alert us to unsafe levels of gas, to using pigeons for carrying messages across vast distances, animals have long been used to help make our lives just a little bit easier. Today, we are continuing to find ways in which animals can help make our lives better.
While pets can provide all sorts of benefits in our lives, we have trained animals to perform more specialized tasks to help us overcome situations that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible for us to accomplish on our own. Animals that are trained to do specific tasks to aid humans are considered to be working animals.
What is a Working Animal?
A working animal is any creature that has been trained to perform specialized tasks to aid humans. The purposes for which working animals are trained is incredibly varying and diverse. Some animals are trained to help the police whether that be with their ability to sniff out drugs or explosive ordinance, or dogs that are trained to help chase down criminals and aid in apprehending them.
Other working animals have been trained to help pull heavy equipment such as with farming or transporting cargo. There are also animals trained for guarding fields or other animals from predators which might mean them harm. Animals have been trained for sheepherding and to help with wrangling up cattle. There are even animals that are trained to help people find valuable plants like truffles which pigs and dogs are especially good at smelling even if they are buried under multiple feet of soil.
There are different classifications of working animals that can perform specific duties for handlers that are incapable of doing things on their own. We even have animals that are trained to help those who have disabilities with taking on their daily lives in a safer and more enjoyable way. These animals are known as service animals.
What is a Service Animal?
Service animals are animals that are trained to perform specific duties for their handlers who are disabled. Most often dogs are the animal of choice for these roles, but that isn’t always the case. Service dogs can help people with all kinds of disabilities whether they are deaf, blind, or epileptic, there are service animals trained to aid these people. Service animals are a specific classification of working animals that are capable of providing meaningful tasks on behalf of their handlers.
Service animals can have a huge impact on the overall quality of life of their handlers and are even capable of saving lives at times thanks to their specialized training and highly intelligent and alert nature. Animals can be trained to help those who suffer from diabetes by smelling when their blood sugar is at dangerous levels. They can even learn to detect when an epileptic is about to have a seizure so they can alert the person to get somewhere safe or alert others for help.
Seeing-eye dogs are trained to help blind people navigate busy streets, crowded cafes, and unfamiliar buildings so they can lead an independent life without fear of getting run over or stumbling down a flight of stairs. Hearing dogs are trained to aid those who are hard of hearing or completely deaf by alerting their handler to sounds they can’t hear such as smoke detectors, ringing phones, or emergency sirens in the distance. The number of tasks which service animals have been trained for is incredible.
Besides service dogs, there are also animals known as emotional support animals.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that aren’t necessarily trained for any specific purpose and are used more for their comforting presence than any specific task. These animals simply keep the company of their owners to help them overcome emotional issues that they suffer from. ESAs are used for all kinds of emotional disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorder.
ESAs can help people feel comforted in times of extreme stress due to the comforting nature of an animal. ESAs aren’t technically working animals, but they perform a lot of the same functions in so far as they help humans to take back control of their lives and gain some sense of independence which they would otherwise not have without the presence of their support animal.
A more specific kind of ESA that is actually a working animal is a therapy pet.
What is a Therapy Pet?
Therapy pets differ from ESAs in that they are specifically trained to provide comfort to patients. Many different types of facilities employ the use of therapy pets at times to help aid the healing process of their patients. Therapy pets are extremely calm and loving animals that are trained to give affection to people who need some support when going through difficult times such as during rehabilitation or in times of grief.
Some therapy pets are regulars at specific locations that can be found there during business hours helping patients to feel better. Other therapy pets are brought to different locations and make rounds at hospitals or schools to patients who are in need of a bit of comfort or attention. Therapy pets have been known to visit places such as schools, daycares, group homes, and rehabilitation centers. They can help people with disorders or people who do not suffer from any particular illness by just being a friendly companion for a time.
Some service animals are trained to act as therapy pets as well, though this is not usually the case. Therapy pets are separate from service dogs and ESAs due to the specific nature of their role within an organization. Therapy pets may even sometimes be taken to the residence of people who are in need of aid to help them feel better during treatment or when they can’t make it out of their houses on their own.
Therapy pets can help people feel comforted and loved through their gentle nature and loving attention which they happily give out.
What Kinds of Animals Can Be Therapy Pets?
Therapy pets can come in all shapes and sizes. While dogs tend to be the default animal most people think of when it comes to therapy pets or service animals, they aren’t the only animals used for this purpose. Not everyone responds well to dogs. In fact, some people are terribly afraid of dogs for various reasons. Cats are also commonly used as therapy pets but all kinds of animals you might not expect can also serve the purpose.
Snakes, birds, lizards, and even tarantulas can act as therapy pets depending on the preferences of the patient. A therapy pet doesn’t necessarily require specialized training to perform its job as any well-behaved animal which doesn’t pose a threat to a patient could provide a sense of comfort and well-being in the right situation.
Having said that, dogs and cats are the most common types of therapy pets with dogs being the most common of all. Different breeds of dogs are used as therapy pets from golden retrievers to poodles and pugs. There really isn’t a single correct answer when it comes to the right animal or breed of therapy pet because just about any animal could do the job under the right circumstances and with the right patient.
Registering an Animal as a Therapy Pet
Therapy pets don’t require any special training or official registration to perform their duties like in the case of service animals. However, a poorly trained therapy pet could easily cause more harm than good which is why it’s so important that therapy pets be well-mannered and trained to adapt to all kinds of situations and environments.
Unlike with emotional support animals or service animals, therapy pets are not afforded any special rights or legal permissions. Due to this, registering a therapy pet as an ESA might be a good idea to help ensure the therapy pet can have access to areas that might otherwise be off-limits to them. Registering your animal will also grant you official registration papers, an Animal ID Card, and legal information sheets which can be easily referenced for quickly gaining access without much trouble.
Therapy pets can make a huge difference in the lives of patients and their owners, but it may be difficult for the animals to gain access to places they need to be in order to provide their services. As such, registering your therapy pet as a service animal or an emotional support animal may be a good idea to let them better accomplish their job no matter where they are needed.
Training a Therapy Pet
While no special training is necessary for an animal to become a therapy pet, it is a very good idea to make sure that the animal is well trained and capable of handling stressful situations. It’s hard to predict what kind of incidents might occur with your therapy pet when they are introduced to new situations and new people or other animals. Due to this, having them trained to remain calm in all kinds of situations is imperative to make sure they can keep their cool and perform their role without causing any issues.
Not every animal is ideal for becoming a therapy pet. Some animals might have too much nervous energy themselves to act as good therapy pets. This is why it’s important to train potential therapy pets and ensure that they are capable of handling stressful situations without harming themselves or others. The last thing you need is for your therapy pet to need therapy itself!
It’s also important that your therapy pet is well house-trained so it doesn’t have any accidents in unfamiliar places or on the patients themselves. Having a well-trained animal act as a therapy pet is ideal to ensure there are no complications or issues that arise from a lack of training. It’s important that therapy animals are well-tempered so they can keep calm in different situations. Aside from that, therapy pets should also be very well socialized by exposing them to all kinds of different environments with other people and animals around.
Other than training, therapy pets should also ideally be very clean and fastidious animals that don’t leave a mess behind themselves. Which might rule snails out I suppose! Therapy pets should be low or non-shedding animals to avoid leaving a hunk of fur behind. Non-shedding animals have the added benefit of being hypoallergenic which might be mandatory depending on the location where the therapy pet is set to perform its duties.
Above all, therapy pets should be very social animals that love to cheer other people up. After all, that’s their whole purpose really. Due to this, it’s important to make sure your therapy pet isn’t an animal that is prone to getting frustrated or tired easily because being a therapy pet can take a lot of energy.
Therapy pets can provide invaluable aid to people in their greatest times of need. They are amazing creatures capable of giving people support and happy moments in times when they might otherwise be sad or stressed out due to their circumstances. If you would like to get more information on therapy pets, service animals, or emotional support animals, contact the professionals at USSA to ask any questions you might have.