Why Start an Animal Assisted Therapy Business
Animal therapy started in the mid 1800s when Florence Nightingale recognized the potential of small pets in reducing anxiety among children and adults. (Miller, 2000). Today, it is used as an alternative approach to several illnesses and disorders. It brings physical, psychological and emotional benefits to patients receiving pet therapy. In addition, animals as pets provide valuable companionship for individuals/families, giving unconditional love and support. In the US, there are 15,600 nursing homes (CDC, 2014), 5,564 registered hospitals (AHA, 2017) and 98,300 public schools & 33,600 private schools (NCES, 2016) that can benefit from animal therapy. At present, animal therapy is mostly delivered by volunteer organizations. Although there are no set regulations as to how animal therapy businesses can be set up, there are guidelines that can be used as a basis.
Benefits of Animal Therapy
Using animals to help people cope with diseases is an alternative or complementary approach to treatment methods. It helps in several ways:
In nursing care settings, animals (dogs and cats) are important companions that can relieve patients and the elderly of boredom or loneliness. Having an animal around helps them get exercise and assists in physical rehab.
Improves Physical Health.
The benefits of having a pet around are many including lowering blood pressure and improvement of cardiovascular health. Promotes Mental/Psychological Health Animal therapy assists in reducing anxiety, depression, social isolation/alienation and at the same time promotes communication and social skills. It also helps build self-confidence assisting those with speech and emotional disorders overcome their issues.
One area which has promising results is horse therapy, perceived as beneficial to cancer sufferers. This type of treatment helps them overcome the difficulties of going through the disease and its treatment process. Horse riding provides physical, emotional and psychological benefits to patients. It helps improve balance and coordination, strengthens muscles and increases endurance where chemo or radiation therapy has weakened the body. On an emotional plane, horse-assisted therapy encourages self-control and self-confidence as well as assisting in the healing process for patients.
How to Start an Animal Therapy Business
A genuine interest and passion in helping people through animal-assisted therapy is essential to start a business in this field. Given the potential of helping people afflicted with diseases and disorders cope with their limitations, it can become a viable entrepreneurial activity. Before starting a business, there are many considerations to look at, such as local & state laws, licensing requirements, liability insurance, certifications, training and credentials to establish the trustworthiness of the service. In addition, animal welfare is important ensuring that they are not only well-trained and certified, but also groomed and healthy. Animal therapy involves working with a multi-disciplinary team such as licensed physical therapists and counselors. When an animal therapy facility is run properly, safely and effectively, it will not only bring enormous benefits to patients and clients, and a personal sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to the owner, but also becomes a source of income and jobs