National Therapy Animal Day Date in the current year: April 30, 2024

National Therapy Animal Day National Therapy Animal Day is celebrated annually on April 30. It was created to raise awareness of and recognize all the amazing therapy dogs and other therapy animals who bring people joy, comfort, and healing.

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is an alternative or complementary type of therapy that uses animals in a treatment to improve a patient’s emotional, social, or cognitive functioning. Unlike service animals that are trained to assist disabled people in specific ways, therapy animals primarily provide comfort and affection to those in need.

Therapy animals can be used in the treatment of various conditions including, but not limited to, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, anxiety, autism, chronic illnesses and chronic pain, depression, grief, PTSD, stress, substance use disorder, etc. Animal therapy can take place at a designated facility or in other settings such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, hospices, schools, prisons, mental institutions, and more.

The most common types of animal-assisted therapy are canine-assisted therapy (dogs) and equine-assisted therapy (horses). However, various other animals can also be utilized for AAT. They include cats, small rodents (rats, guinea pigs), rabbits, farm animals (pigs, llamas, alpacas, cows, donkeys, sheep, etc.), birds, and even snakes.

Therapy animals do not require extensive training, but they must meet certain criteria. First and foremost, they must welcome interactions with strangers and have no history of aggression towards people or other animals. They should also have a bond with their owner (handler) and be responsive to their direction. Therapy animals must be healthy, and certain animal species must be vaccinated against rabies.

National Therapy Animal Day was created by Pet Partners, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to demonstrate and promote the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy. It helps volunteers improve the health and well-being of people in their communities by sharing their pets through animal therapy visits. The organization currently works with nine therapy animal species: dogs, cats, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, miniature pigs, horses, and alpacas/llamas.

Pet Partners launched National Therapy Animal Day to raise awareness of animal-assisted therapy and the role it plays in enhancing human health and well-being, recognize and honor thousands of therapy animals and their human companions (handlers), and encourage pet owners to become therapy animal volunteers.

There are many ways to celebrate National Therapy Animal Day. If you have a pet that meets the criteria for a therapy animal, consider becoming a volunteer therapy animal team to bring comfort to people in hospitals, pediatric care units, assisted living facilities, schools, in other settings.

If you your pet does not fit the criteria or you don’t have a pet, you can still get involved by donating to Pet Partners or any other animal-assisted therapy nonprofit, sharing your positive experience with therapy animals (if you have any) to raise awareness of AAT, and spreading the word about the observance on social media with the hashtag #NationalTherapyAnimalDay.

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