Happy National Therapy Animal Day!

In this bonus episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sat down with Elisabeth Van Every, Senior Communications Specialist and Managing Editor of Pet Partners, to talk about National Therapy Animal Day and how you can get involved.

Pet Partners founded National Therapy Animal Day in 2015 and is on a mission to spread awareness about the important work of therapy animals in hopes to grow the impact of what is possible while building standards in the industry.

I’ll admit that I learned quite a bit about the efforts to recognize, validate, and celebrate the work of Therapy Animals during my conversation with Elisabeth, so if you’re ready to find out more, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • When National Therapy Animal Day began and why it exists.
  • How evidence and standards for human-animal interactions matter and what Pet Partners is doing to stay up to date and participate in the research on an international level.
  • What Elisabeth hopes to see in the future of animal-assisted interventions.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [02:05] Elisabeth shares about her role at Pet Partners—telling the stories of what their therapy animal teams do.
  • [02:46] Elisabeth shares her current training journey for her dog, Fezzik, including why he’s not (yet) a Therapy Dog.
  • [04:06] A reminder that sometimes the best role for an animal is to help their own family.
  • [04:15] The role of the screening and credentialing process to make sure pet therapy teams can visit safely.
  • [05:13] The work of the Therapy Animal starts with being a beloved pet who loves interactions with people.
  • [05:43] The meaning of the YAYABA™ (You are your animal’s best advocate!) principle and how the relationship between a handler and their animal is a foundational element of pet therapy work.
  • [09:29] The importance Pet Partners places on evidence, safety, health, and medical princples involved in what their teams do and how that’s led to courses endorsed by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA).
  • [13:30] Why it matters that Pet Partners is affiliated with Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII), International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), and The International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) and how that can lead to program changes depending on evidence and findings from professionals in other fields.
  • [15:34] The nine types of species that Pet Partner registers: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, domestic rats, equines, birds, miniature pigs, and llamas and alpacas. (Fun fact: ~92% of their total registrations are dogs and there are more Golden Retrievers in their program than all of their other species combined.)
  • [17:20] What led to their new sister organization Association of Animal-Assisted Intervention Professionals (AAAIP).
  • [27:20] The difference between a Predictable and Complex ratings for Pet Partners Therapy Animal teams.
  • [31:50] How the handler’s ability to adjust to various environments is just as important as the animal’s capacity.
  • [32:39] The history and purpose of National Therapy Animal Day in celebrating the human-animal bond, the work that therapy teams do, and the difference they make in their communities.
  • [34:20] The focus throughout the year on advocacy around issues that support the human-animal bond and animal-assisted interventions—particular standards for animals coming into the facilities.
  • [34:41] How individuals requesting a proclamation for National Therapy Animal Day from local officials helps to create visibility that can make a difference in the broader work throughout the year.
  • [37:44] An encouragement to spread awareness by contacting your local media to share stories of how you have seen therapy pets make a difference in your community as well as the opportunity to hold special events.
  • [39:37] Elisabeth shares her personal experience with the impact of therapy dogs in working with veterans and what she hopes to see accomplished through growth of volunteers and leaders, awareness of what they can do, access to information, clarity in the role—and how it differs from Service Animals and ESAs, and standards for therapy animals.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a listen and let me know which part you found the most helpful!

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

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