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Animal-assisted therapy

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves an animal with specific characteristics becoming a fundamental part of a person's treatment. Animal-assisted therapy is designed to improve the physical,[citation needed] social,[citation needed] emotional[citation needed], and/or cognitive[citation needed] functioning of the patient, as well as provide educational[citation needed] and motivational[citation needed] effectiveness for participants. AAT can be provided on an individual or group basis. During AAT, therapists document records and evaluate the participant's progress.[citation needed]

Many kinds of animals are used in therapy, including dogs, cats, elephants, birds, dolphins, rabbits, lizards, and other small animals. AAT with horses is known specifically as equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP), equine-assisted learning (EAL), equine-assisted creative living (EACL), equine-assisted personal development (EAPD) or therapeutic horseback riding.



People who have pets benefit in various ways, for example, the comfort of physical contact with animals, reducing loneliness, and increased opportunities for meeting others, via the pets.[citation needed] In addition, caring for pets encourages nurturance, responsibility, and adherence to a daily schedule.


  • Improve fine motor skills.[citation needed]
  • Improve wheelchair skills.[citation needed]
  • Improve standing equilibrioception (balance).[citation needed]


A 2007 meta-analysis found that animal-assisted therapy is associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in autism spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being.[1]

  • Increase verbal interactions between group members.
  • Increase attention skills (i.e., paying attention, staying on task).
  • Develop leisure/recreation skills.
  • Increase self-esteem.
  • Reduce anxiety.
  • Reduce loneliness.


  • Increase vocabulary.[citation needed]
  • Aid in long- or short-term memory.[citation needed]
  • Improve knowledge of concepts, such as size, color, etc.[citation needed]


  • Improve willingness to be involved in a group activity.[citation needed]
  • Improve interactions with others.[citation needed]
  • Improve interactions with staff.[citation needed]


Researchers at Emory University have concluded that Dolphin Assisted Therapy is "...a dangerous fad." and lacks any real efficacy. Furthermore, the practice of capturing dolphins can leave more injured or even dead.[2]


  1. ^ Nimer J, Lundahl B (2007). "Animal-assisted therapy: a meta-analysis". Anthrozoos 20 (3): 225–38. doi:10.2752/089279307X224773.
  2. ^ Marino L. (2007) [1] Dolphin 'therapy' a dangerous fad Emory University

Further reading

  • Learning More, (2006). Aqua Thought Foundation. Retrieved April 9, 2006.
  • Oakley, Dawn., and Bardin, Gail., The Potential Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for Children With Special Needs. Retrieved April 9, 2006.
  • Howie, Ann R., (2000). The Human-Animal Health Connection Pet Partners Team Training Course Manual 5th Ed. Delta Society, Renton, WA.
  • Howie, Ann R., (2000, 2006). "Starting a Visiting-Animal Group" Providence St. Peter Foundation, Olympia, WA.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Animal-assisted_therapy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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