In these days of advancing technology in healthcare, using animals to support medical conditions does seem a bit 20th century. However, the trajectory for support animals of all kinds is rising, suggesting it may be an emergent trend.
Everyone has heard of guide dogs for the blind, but there are also service dogs trained to help people with other physical disabilities or conditions and emotional support animals to support mental and emotional problems.
Man’s Best Friend
The ever-expanding use of animals of all species to help support the human race dates back to the early 20th century, with organizations like Guide Dogs setting the pace, now the world’s largest breeder and trainer of working dogs.
Service dogs are a variation on this theme and include several different categories. Hearing dogs undergo training to assist those with hearing loss and alert them to different sounds.
Seizure alert and diabetic alert dogs learn to recognize when their owner is about to have a seizure or diabetic episode.
As the list of possible service dog activities grows ever longer, there is a central service to register your dog as a service dog. This registry assists service dog owners and educates the public about the critical role these animals play.
Using Animals for Rehabilitation
Using animals for therapy and active rehabilitation is not a new idea.
During the 1980s, the renowned San Patrignano community used horses as an active tool in the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
The actual driver for this equestrian enterprise was a man called Vincenzo Muccioli. Muccioli aimed to create a community to support the rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug addicts.
However, Muccioli was also passionate about breeding world-class horses, and San Patrignano went on to produce sporting Olympic champions ridden by some of the world’s top riders.
Like all animals, horses don’t judge people, and that lack of judgment can be a boon for recovering substance users.
The special bond between man and horse is an effective and therapeutic tool in helping those with drug addiction problems overcome difficulties in their relationships with others.
Animals for Support
Using animals for emotional and psychological support is not confined to the lone relationship between one human and his animal.
Animals are becoming increasingly prevalent to enhance the health and wellbeing of thousands of people in various settings. They help people in care homes for the elderly, hospitals, hospices, and prisons. Indeed, research in recent years has found that animal-assisted therapy for inmates can improve recidivism rates, stress, and other mental health issues.
Animals include cats, dogs, rabbits, and even miniature ponies. The simplest interactions, such as a pat or a stroke, have rewards beyond measure for many people who can no longer have an animal or have never known the joy they bring.
In the 21st century, the trajectory of high-tech medicine continues to rise at a meteoric rate, but there is still much we don’t know about how animals can help in various ways. Rather than being pushed out by other forms of medicine and support, this is one area that is developing with an ever-growing acceptance for the public.