Therapy animals and their importance

I'm going to start out by saying I have a emotional support/companion dog for my panic attacks and depression, and her name is Coco. Having Coco has been the best thing for me, I have grown up with severe depression and anxiety all my life and was able to manage it very well until it got extremely bad when my mother passed away. I have always known about dogs and how they can make people happy and how heartbroken everyone in my family was so I adopted my dad a dog during this time. As my depression continued to get worse my mothers friend Julia decided I was in need of a companion as well. This is where my Princess Coco comes in, shes a rescue, but really she rescued me. I know that's a total cliche but its the truth. When you go from being so depressed you cant get out of bed to having this dog you have to feed, and walk, and give affection to things change. Now since Coco is just a companion dog, she doesn't have any formal training, the goal with her was to be able to get me out of the house, I guess you could say it was more training for myself. Needless to say I went from not being able to leave my house to being able to go shopping longer than 30 minutes without a panic attack.

So Therapy Animals, Companion Animals, Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals? What exactly is the difference? What are they used for? I wanted to write this because unfortunately there is a lot of confusion out there and a lot of misinformation, people often mistake one for another. Especially Therapy Animals and Service Animals, which are completely different. So let my clarify a little bit. 

Therapy Animals: Therapy animals are usually used as part of therapy in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons and with a therapist in an office or onsite with the animals. They are usually dogs or cats but can sometimes even be dolphins and horses. This type of therapy is known as AAT or Animal Assisted Therapy. Also these types of animals are trained to be calm and collected, and they do require certification.

Companion And Emotional Support Animals: these two are the same for the most part. These type of animals typically live with there owners and are used for things such as anxiety, depression, as well as with children with developmental disorders and temperament problems.This literally can be any type of animal, the most common kinds are dogs, cats, birds and hamsters. Often times psychiatrist "prescribe" this as a form of therapy for people like me, who need something to take care of. These animals are usually trained by their owners and don't require any certification. Also if you are moving into an apartment or a new place of residence the US Federal Law prohibits your landlord from denying you residence as long as you have proper documentation from your doctor. Meaning as long as you have a letter from your doctor saying it is necessary for your mental health your landlord cant be a jerk or deny you residence even in "no animal" housing. 

Service Animals: These are usually dogs and usually wear the bright read, yellow, or blue vests that say "please do not touch" and there is a reason for it, they have a purpose and are not for play at all. They go through some pretty intense training, and are extremely attentive to their companion and stay with them at all times. These animals are used for people who are blind as guide dogs, with the deaf to help signal them, people with epilepsy to recognize the symptoms of a seizure, and people with other disabilities including severe Asthma, Arthritis and MS to help them perform little tasks such as picking things up, opening doors and many other things. These dogs go through a ton of training and absolutely need certification. 

So these are the differences between the three, Now I can tell you just having Coco just for the support has been amazing. I am very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to have an Emotional Support Animal, and that I had amazing family friends who recognized my need for one, and my father who finally gave in to letting me have her (long story which I will have to post later.) Anyways I better wrap it up James and Coco have been waiting for me to finish this post to go on our morning walk/bike ride around the block.

Love Always

Meg (and Coco and James)

Meg ChapmanComment