“The primary purpose of a therapy animal is to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties.” (Note: Therapy animals do not have federally-protected rights. However, there are certain states that do afford animals and their owner’s rights and protection). [i]

therapy dog

Therapy animals are not service animals or even emotional support animals. Though therapy animals are mostly thought of as dogs, there can be other animals such as cats, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits and even birds.

However, therapy animals must be:

  • Be well tempered

  • Not shed excessively

  • Well socialized (exposed to many environments)

  • Love to cheer others up

  • Registered.

Pet Partners is an organization for pet therapy which has been in existence for more than 40 years. They boast they are the largest, most prestigious therapy animal registry. If you are interested in this group or pet therapy, they offer a free eNewsletter entitled, Just What the Doctor Ordered! Go here to subscribe: [ii]


There are three different types of therapy animals:

  • Therapeutic visitation – “These [animals] are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention facilities, and rehabilitation facilities and help people who have to be away from home due to mental or physical illness or court order.”

  • Animal assisted therapy – “These animals assist physical and occupational therapists in meeting goals important to a person's recovery. Tasks that a dog can help achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, or regaining pet care skills for caring for pets at home.”

  • Facility therapy - “These animals primarily work in nursing homes and are often trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer's disease or other mental illness from getting into trouble. They are handled by a trained member of the staff and live at the facility.” [iii]

Here are a few true stories about animals that participate in Animal Therapy:

§ Oreo, a black and white therapy rabbit, who makes the rounds at nursing homes and schools with his handler who spent time training her rabbits to enjoy being picked up, held, and petted.

§ One handler, who has been registered with Pet Partners since 2006, currently has 5 llamas and one miniature horse who mostly visit people in end-stage hospice. Flight, one of her llamas, is a total ham that not only entertains, but reads people and adjusts to their comfort level. She can always be counted on to work a crowd with her kisses and hugs.

§ One handler who recently retired from pet therapy due to health issues, reports he and his dog, Mandy, worked with Pet Therapy (since back in the day when they were known as the Delta Society) since 2002. They frequented nursing homes and schools. “Mandy and I won a Jefferson Award for starting the pet program at the hospital, and she also was featured in Prevention magazine for her actions when one of the women she saw every week at the cancer center requested to see her on her death bed.”[iv]

As you can see, these animals and their handlers offer a great service for those who are in need. If you have ever owned a pet, you know what I mean when I say how very special and supportive animals can be, especially to one who is in need of support.

Call Missy Donaghy with Interiors for Seniors for a FREE consultation 321-279-3301.

[i] Registry, National Service Animal. “All About Therapy Animals.” National Service Animal Registry,

[ii] “Pet Partners.” Pet - Therapy Pets & Animal Assisted Activities,

[iii] Registry, National Service Animal. “All About Therapy Animals.” National Service Animal Registry,

[iv] “Home.” "I Have Enjoyed Every Minute": 17 Years with Pet Partners,


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