Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity Visits
Happy Tails visits include simply sharing our pets with clients in an informal setting, referred to as animal-assisted activity, to more formal visits, categorized as animal-assisted therapy, in which volunteers and their pets participate in therapy sessions, paired with a client and a professional healthcare or human services professional who has a goal sheet for each visit.
Happy Tails volunteer teams provide physical, social, emotional, and cognitive therapy to people of all ages. Most people we visit often focus more on the fun they are having instead of the therapeutic benefits they receive!
Regular team visits can be arranged on weekdays, weeknights or weekends, seven days a week. We also provide one-time special visits upon request and based on availability. There is no charge to receive the services provided by Happy Tails volunteers. Please contact us at least forty-five days in advance of a special visit request.
If you are interested in receiving animal-assisted therapy or activity visits by a Happy Tails team at your facility, or would like to request a special one-time visit, please click here to complete the request.
If you would like to have a member of our speakers’ bureau make a presentation for your organization, please click here to complete the request form.
We will contact you soon to discuss your needs. Please allow up to one week for one of our volunteers to contact you.
Please note that due to liability restrictions, visits cannot be made to individuals or private homes.
Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity
Animal-assisted therapy and activity visits provide numerous cognitive, physical, social and emotional benefits.
On a visit, a volunteer may start a conversation by asking, “Have you ever owned a pet?” When patients talk about pets they used to own, remember information about the therapy animal, or talk about animals in general, they are developing cognitive and knowledge skills.
Asking the patient to recall information about your cat, or asking a patient to give a sequence of cues to your dog, can exercise memory skills.
Speech and Communication Skills
Simply talking about a dog or telling others in a group about a pet can strengthen speech and communication skills. Calling your dog, giving your dog cues, and conversing to or about your cat all work the patient’s vocal volume and breath support, and help increase vocal clarity and language production. Encouraging the patient to describe objects, formulate short phrases or converse with your rabbit are all ways for her to practice verbal expression, and require the patient to focus attention on your pet, the task, and the therapist.
Walking a dog, throwing a ball for a dog to retrieve, reaching to touch your cat, or bending to pet your rabbit all increase gross motor skills. Similarly, petting an animal, brushing a dog, stroking a rabbit’s ears, tying a ribbon on a cat, or buckling a dog’s collar, sharpen fine motor skills.
More specifically, animal-assisted therapy can help with a variety of physical, occupational, and speech therapy goals. For increased upper extremity range of motion, the patient can throw an object for your dog to retrieve, use hand signals to cue your dog, use a leash to maneuver him, and pat, stroke, or brush your pet.
Balance and Coordination
To work on balance, a patient may pet or brush your cat from various positions or throw an object for your dog to retrieve, also from various positions. And for mobility, the patient can walk with you and your dog using a second leash or “walk” your dog from her wheelchair. Reaching for a toy your dog has retrieved, brushing your cat, or patting your rabbit can strengthen coordination skills.
People who are depressed or lonely may respond more subtly to the unconditional love that your pet offers. Your dog can encourage someone to pet him by what he does naturally - wagging his tail. The smiles and conversation that follow may be a major step in that person’s battle against depression, may aid to increase self-esteem, and reduce anxiety and loneliness. Patients whose emotional pain has isolated them from others may joyfully join in a group conversation about their own beloved animals as they stroke your fluffy cat, rabbit, or dog.
Petting and brushing your dog, cat or rabbit also promote relaxation.
In a less active environment, such as a hospice or assisted living facility, your visit will provide stimulation, conversation, companionship, and sensory gratification to the patient, as well as comfort to the caretaker and family members. An entertaining animal, such as one that knows tricks, provides a welcome diversion to distract a resident from pain. Smiles and laughter are also great medicine.
Even an animal that “only” has a sweet face and a gentle touch makes a valuable contribution in any kind of setting. Cat, rabbit, show dog or shelter dog, Happy Tails has a visit for you and your pet.