Un­usual Pets Of­fer Com­fort, Cheer

Ther­apy an­i­mals in­clude birds, pigs, lla­mas—even rats

Times of the Islands - - Contents - BY ANN MARIE O’PHEL AN Ann Marie O’Phelan is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

Thanks to their com­pan­ion­ship, loy­alty and abil­ity to com­fort us, dogs are known as “man’s best friend.” How­ever, other types of an­i­mals also ful­fill that role—such as cats, rab­bits, guinea pigs and even minia­ture horses. They, too, can pro­vide com­fort and as­sist with is­sues such as stress, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

Pet Part­ners, based in the state of Wash­ing­ton but work­ing on a na­tional scale, con­nects peo­ple with the heal­ing power of an­i­mals—which the or­ga­ni­za­tion refers to as “ther­apy an­i­mals.” It is at present the only na­tional ther­apy an­i­mal reg­istry or­ga­ni­za­tion that reg­is­ters the fol­low­ing: dogs, cats, rab­bits, horses, birds, pigs, guinea pigs, lla­mas and al­pacas, and even rats.

The reg­is­tra­tion process is based on re­search demon­strat­ing the suit­abil­ity of those species for an­i­mal-as­sisted in­ter­ven­tions. “We very much sup­port a va­ri­ety of species as both pets and ther­apy an­i­mals to meet a range of needs,” ex­plains Elis­a­beth Van Ev­ery, mar­ket­ing and strate­gic part­ner­ships co­or­di­na­tor for Pet Part­ners.

As Sanibel res­i­dent Wil­liam Bron­ner notes, “I have dogs, which pro­vide com­pan­ion­ship, but my African spurred tor­toise is also quite af­fec­tion­ate and en­joys in­ter­act­ing with me.”

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