We all know dogs are often used as therapy animals, but depending on the need, other animals may be used to assist humans with their day-to-day tasks and emotional well-being as well.
What’s the Difference Between a Service Animal, an Emotional Support Animal, and a Therapy Animal?
Service animals are often lumped together with emotional support animals, but there are differences between them. Service animals go through training and certifications to assist humans with specific physical disabilities and perform specialized tasks. The Americans with Disabilities Act dictates what can and cannot be considered a service animal, as well as the disorders that qualify for them and the training and certifications required. The ADA dictates that all service animals must be dogs, but this is not the case for emotional support animals.
Emotional support animals (ESA) are for people with mental and emotional conditions who need additional comfort to get through the day. These animals typically don’t have required certifications, nor are they trained to perform specific tasks. Rather, ESAs allow their humans to live in the world in comfort and offer emotional support when needed.
Therapy animals, on the other hand, are most often used in group settings. They are trained and certified by a handler who can then take them into settings like hospitals, schools, and elderly care centers where animals are typically prohibited. They are used to comfort the sick and sometimes even to offer comfort after a stressful event. It is ESAs and therapy animals that have the flexibility to be more than just dogs, and people often get creative with the animals used to bring comfort.
Cuddle Quack the Emotional Support Duck
Cuddle Quack is Azja Dann’s emotional support duck. He helps her face her anxiety and be more confident on a daily basis. The family raised Cuddle Quack from an egg, and his empathy has helped Azja become more outgoing and talk to people when they ask questions about her duck.
Ducks may seem like a strange choice for a therapy animal, but if they are handled frequently from an early age, they will bond with their human family. They are social animals, and love being with others of their kind. Also, no matter how early you raise them, ducks are not made to be indoor animals. Be sure to give your duck the freedom to roam outside.
Pigs are unique animals, and their high intelligence and sensitive nature make them great around humans. Not only will they bond with their humans, they also do well in social settings, so they make great group therapy animals. Imagine the surprise and delight on those healing from medical or emotional trauma when a therapy pig enters the room.
Mini donkeys have taken social media by storm in recent years. Their adorable size and expressive faces make them great companion animals, but their unique height also makes them convenient therapy animals. Their heads are at the perfect level to comfort someone in a hospital bed or wheelchair, and their charming personalities make everyone in contact with them a little happier.
Pyxis the Therapy Unicorn
OK, technically Pyxis is a miniature horse. Like mini donkeys, mini horses are popular on social media and make excellent therapy animals. Pyxis gets dressed up like a unicorn for events, therapy, and more. Like others of her kind, she is patient and easily trainable. Socialize them early if you want them to grow into an excellent therapy animal.
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Many people do not like rodents, but domesticated rodents can be gentle and kind. Rats, for example, have a bad reputation, but make great pets and therapy animals due to their intelligence and docile nature. Guinea pigs, hamsters, and chinchillas also make fantastic therapy animals based on a person’s needs.
Rabbits are easy to care for and take up little space, so they make great therapy animals. They’re easy to train and, if they are socialized early, they make excellent group therapy animals. Their plush fur, floppy ears, and adorable feet are sure to bring a smile to even the grumpiest face.
Animals impact our moods drastically, as any pet parent will tell you, so it’s no surprise that we have come to need them for emotional support and physical healing. With diligent training and socialization, you aren’t limited to dogs as therapy animals.
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