Animals have always occupies a central position in human lives since whether being used as domestication process, for transportation ,for security purposes or simply as a companion. The human- animal bond goes beyond companionship. It refers to the strong positive interaction that exists between humans and animals-the special bond that actually enhances human quality of life.
Early cave drawings have been reported to illustrate wolves as family companions. Historically, the concept of animals improving human health has evolved from an initial “belief in the supernatural power of animals and animal spirits,” among early hunter gatherers to more recent advocacy for animals as “agents of socialization” and as providers of “relaxation and social support”.
THE Delta society, one of the largest organizations responsible for the certiﬁcation of therapy animals in the United States, has published the following widely cited deﬁnitions of animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activity.
• Animal-assisted therapy: AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets speciﬁc criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of practice of his/her profession. Key features include speciﬁed goals and objectives for each individual and measured progress.
• Animal-assisted activity: AAA provides opportunities for motivational, edu- cational, recreational, and/or therapeutic beneﬁts to enhance quality of life. AAAs are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained profes- sionals, paraprofessionals, and/or volunteers in association with animals that meet speciﬁc criteria. Key features include absence of speciﬁc treatment goals; volunteers and treatment providers are not required to take detailed notes; visit content is spontaneous.
Relationship with an animal offers greater potential to enhance the person’s life and that most compatible relationships with animals afford benefits to the person and animal. Animal companionship, although commonplace, offers a psychosocial benefit that can provide a meaningful and substantial comfort.
1) SOCIAL BENEFITS- Pets help increase our ability to affiliate with others around us stimulating conversation and aiding in the reduction of anxious feelings people may experience.
2) BEHAVIORAL BENEFITS- animals introduce responsibility and a nurturing behaviour into the lives of children as a family pet is often considered a child’s child. Some 48% of families consider their pet a family member.
3) EMOTIONAL EFFECTS- animals often are the centre of attention and usually do things to make us laugh.
4) PHYSICAL EFFECTS- Animals encourage more exercise, which results in better physical health such as lower blood pressure, decrease use of conventional medication, increased movement and less stress. The elderly for example , walk more often and have a much more positive exercise experience when it is with their pet.
5) DEVELOPMENTAL BENEFITS- animals have been shown to contribute in helping children learn how to trust others, be compassionate, and take responsibility for themselves and their belongings. “Pocket pets” such as rabbits, hamsters, fish and birds are animals that can easily be taken care of by children.
Children benefit in other ways too. Pets and children are natural combination of energy and playfulness. Many researchers believe that children with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can benefit from a large dog, which can provide an energetic playmate and a source of centering for a child.
1) A therapy dog is defined by Therapy Dogs of Vermont as “a dog that has been specially trained to work with and around people who may be in a convalescent home, hospital, or even a juvenile hall or prison The therapy dog is trained to be calm, gentle and well-mannered in many situations that may vary from being around excited, screaming children or allow an elderly convalescent patient to pet him.” A therapy dog can be anything from a high-dollar dog with a pedigree to a mixed breed picked up at the local shelter.
2) Birds are another type of animal that can be used in AAT. They are mainly used to “alleviate depression and provide an impetus for social interaction” . Birds that are commonly consist of parakeets, finches, and canaries. They are small enough that they do not mind being kept in a cage. When birds are used in long-term care facilities, they can be used to “enhance self-esteem and a sense of responsibility by encouraging residents to help in the daily care and maintenance tasks” .The birds may also be used as a source of visual stimulation, much as fish tanks are used 27 providing the residents with something enjoyable to look at will often keep them out of their rooms and k gives them more opportunities to socialize with others. Along with visual stimulation, the birds also provide “auditory stimulation which is much enjoyed by residents who are regressed”
3) Therapy cats must be comfortable interacting with numerous people in a crowded setting.Cats are good at sitting in a person’s lap and purring.
4) AAT also can be done through the use of horses.The use of horses within a therapeutic setting falls under four broad categories: hippotherapy, riding therapy, riding for rehabilitation, and vaulting.
5) Dolphin therapy has also been successful in alleviating depression and anxiety. Dolphins and humans are linked more closely together in their “multimodal learning style and cognitive abilities than most other animals”. Dolphins have the ability to attract an individual’s attention for a long period of time.
Animal-assisted therapy is a promising intervention for the improvement of people’s physical and mental health. Animal-assisted therapy or pet therapy is a field that is relatively nascent in India. It seeks to improve the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning of a patient through interaction with varied animals .