Monday, July 03, 2017

Therapy animals

There is quite a bit of common sense on display in this article about the therapy animal fad in America.   The idea has definitely gotten a bit out of hand: 
A therapy-animal trend grips the United States. The San Francisco airport now deploys a pig to calm frazzled travelers. Universities nationwide bring dogs (and a donkey) onto campus to soothe students during finals. Llamas comfort hospital patients, pooches provide succor at disaster sites and horses are used to treat sex addiction.

And that duck on a plane? It might be an emotional-support animal prescribed by a mental health professional.
As some in the article say, it's hardly surprising to find that a lot of troubled people find some comfort with being around animals - but bumping it up into a form of therapy can get more than a little silly (as with the duck story.)   I was interested to read this:
Using animals in mental health settings is nothing new. In the 17th century, a Quaker-run retreat in England encouraged mentally ill patients to interact with animals on its grounds. Sigmund Freud often included one of his dogs in psychoanalysis sessions. Yet the subject did not become a research target until the American child psychologist Boris Levinson began writing in the 1960s about the positive effect his dog Jingles had on patients.
I was also wryly amused by the therapy bear cub gone wrong story:
But there are good reasons for rigorous research on animals and mental health. ... Crossman pointed to a 2014 incident at Washington University in St. Louis as an example of animal therapy gone wrong. A bear cub brought to campus during finals week nipped some students, causing a rabies scare that almost ended with the animal being euthanized. More generally, Serpell said, the popular idea that pets make you happier “is not a harmless distortion. … If the public believes that getting an animal is going to be good for them, many times an unsuitable person will get an unsuitable animal, and it doesn’t work out well for either.”

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