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Evidence Mounts in Favour of Therapy Pets

Online provider of discount pet supplies calls for more support and funding to organisations providing therapy pets.

Recently, the Children’s Hospital in Westmead threw a 10th anniversary party for the Delta Society, marking the tenth year that the Delta Society has brought therapy pets into the hospital to visit patients. For many, pet therapy is something new, but pet therapy has been around since 1945.

The first therapy dog was named Smoky. Smoky had been rescued from a battlefield in New Guinea by Corporal William Wynne. Wynne was hospitalised with fever, and some of his fellow soldiers brought Smoky in to help cheer him up. Doctor Charles Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic, served in the hospital where Corporal Wynne was taken, and noticed the effect Smoky had on Corporal Wynne, and decided to take Smoky with him on his rounds.

Smoky would eventually serve as a therapy dog for 12 years, and Dr Mayo had a great story to tell his father, founder of the Mayo Clinic. However, it would be nearly 60 years before the Mayo Clinic would have their first and only, as of this writing, facility-based service dog.

A US nurse working in England, Elaine Smith, would create the first organised program for dog therapy in 1976, after she noticed that a chaplain at the hospital where she worked brought along a golden retriever and got better results than other chaplains did. Smith’s dogs mainly visited hospitals.

In 1982, a non-profit organisation called Tender Loving Zoo was established by an ex-Los Angeles Zoo employee named Nancy Stanley. When Stanley worked at the zoo, she noticed the effects of animals on the handicapped, and started researching therapy pets.

Her first therapy pet was Freeway, her miniature poodle. She took Freeway with her to the Revere Developmental Centre, a facility for the severely handicapped. Stanley would eventually start TLZ with $7,500 of her own money, and eventually persuaded owners of a local pet store to loan her various animals to take to hospitals and convalescent homes. Stanley generally gets credit as the first person to use an animal other than a dog as a therapy pet.

Australia wouldn’t have a pet therapy program until 1997, when the Delta Society was founded. The Delta Society is a registered charity, and depends on charitable contributions for funding. The pets and their owners are all volunteers, as are the officers.

Jason Balchand, Owner of Online Pet Accessories, wants to see more funding for pet therapy: “There are so many programs out there that don’t get half of the results that pet therapy produces when pets are taken to hospitals and facilities for the elderly. There is a lot of research that points to many benefits for patients who spend time with therapy pets.”

Balchand continued, “Some of the documented effects include rises in oxytocin and dopamine, and lowering of cortisol. The net effects are a decrease in blood pressure, higher self-esteem, and even more effective communication with doctors, nurses, and other patients. With medical costs going through the roof, why can’t our medical system or government find more money for something that is so inexpensive, but works so well?”

Balchand concluded, “If a doctor at one of the world’s most powerful hospitals knew that our pets can help us heal almost 70 years ago, why hasn’t the medical community embraced pet therapy on a larger scale?”

Online Pet Accessories supplies dog toys, dog collars, and various discount pet supplies through their online pet shop.

For more information, please call 08 9296 7544, or visit their website http://www.petshop-online.com.au/.