Therapists and Animals: Demystifying Animal-Assisted Therapy
Companionship, pleasure, affection, nonjudgmental acceptance, love, connection to the outside world, a reason to live-these are just a few of the countless benefits enjoyed by those who share their lives with beloved pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that an estimated 61.6 million dogs and 68.9 million cats live in U.S. households, and that 36.1 percent of U.S. homes have dogs while 31.6 percent have cats (Gonzalez, 2002). Other popular family pets include birds, rabbits, turtles, fish, or one of the endless variety of other animal companions. No longer playing subordinate roles in American households, many companion animals are considered family members (Albert & Bulcroft, 1988), and according to Young (2003), 83 percent of adults refer to themselves as “mommy” or “daddy” to their pets. Some pet owners even value their pets as highly as a spouse or a parent (Gunter, 1999).