The fluffy cat, the loyal dog and the observant owl. Pets such as there are therapeutic, they promote wellbeing and help those in need of help. You see animals such as these used in care homes, schools and even prisons. They calm people down and promote positive feelings. This is not always the case though. Some animals can have the opposite effect when introduced.
Nothing in life is absolute
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Nothing is guaranteed. We could walk out of our houses tomorrow and get hit by a car and die. This is possible. Most of the time it does not happen and there is no consideration of this. We live our lives as though none of these dangers exists, as to do the opposite would be tantamount to madness.
No-one wants to go mad and no-one wants to introduce a crocodile into a care home. We, therefore, take precautions. When we cross the road, we look left and then right. We pay attention to what is around us and use our common sense, which is true with pets also.
Introducing a crocodile into prison may open up a few cells to cram more inmates into but on the whole, this is something which would be frowned upon. We enjoy peace in our lives and therefore need to take precautions.
Some animals are simply not suitable to be a therapy pet in the traditional sense. Residents can be taken to a zoo to see a crocodile, but you would not leave one on the Dementia floor with the Care Home. Sensible precautions need to be taken, even with the fluffy cat and the loyal dog.
The cat could have behavioural problems, which would leave it as a less than desirable PAT creature. A resident or inmate could become possessive towards the loyal dog and become aggressive when asked to hand them back. The owl could be carrying some type of disease, which when introduced to the environment in question would present a risk of life.
Since pet therapy is not necessarily whole-heartedly backed by science, there is a gap in the use of set standards for how animal-assisted intervention is conducted. Currently, pet therapy sessions are conducted according to treatment and handling mechanics of those professionals involved, much of which is based on personal experience.
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As there is no official science backing this up and only humanity behind the decision we need to make our own judgements on the situation. We need to, much in the same way as crossing the road, analyse the situation. Observe the animal and ensure they perform well in controlled environments before they are introduced to anyone that is vulnerable.
The benefits outweigh the risks
If we never left our houses then our lives would be very hollow. If we never tried to introduce pets as therapy, then we may never see that person smile again. This is mainly aimed at residents in care homes, but the underlying principle remains the same.
People create powerful bonds with animals. Therapy pets used in schools help children to open up in a way that is simply not possible when it comes to opening up to teachers about sensitive subjects. There is a risk that the child could become attached to the animal yet in the context of confessing a safeguarding concern, the benefits outweigh the risks.
If we never crossed the road, then we would never see what was on the other side. Pets as therapy can be risky, but not if you manage the risks effectively.
Not all pets are created equally
A snake is less appropriate than a dog when viewed from the outside in. Yet, if the snake is not poisonous and poses no danger to life, then why could the snake not be as appropriate in terms of being used as a therapy pet?
Not every pet is suitable to be used as a PAT animal, much like humans. Not every human is meant to cross the road and discover what is on the other side. The benefits outweigh the risks and as long as all reasonable precautions have been taken, then there is no reason why every animal can not be a PAT animal.
Ultimately though, some animals, much like humans will fail the tests and not meet the mark, but as long as we continue to be open to the practice, we have a possibility.