Finding Companionship in Some Furry Places

February being the “love” month, we thought it may be appropriate to kick-off the month talking about some of our favorite furry creatures! In the past we have discussed the benefits of pet relationships and the positive effects that these relationships can have on one’s health and wellbeing.

With the uncertainty of a disease such as MS, individuals may feel comforted knowing that an animal has had some level of training or certification to meet a specific need. But what do the different titles mean? And which might be the best for your situation?

A Therapy Animal is not defined by federal law and may (or may not) be loosely defined by state laws. The primary purpose of a therapy animal is to provide affection and comfort to individuals, mostly those that live in communities such as nursing homes, or hospitals and schools. Their owners are registered members of an Animal Therapy program, and bring the animals in to visit with clients.

A Service Animal is one that has been specifically trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Different states have different regulations in terms of licensing or certification requirements for service animals. You can check with the office of the Attorney General in your state to discover how service animals are defined and licensed.

An Emotional Support Animal, or companion animal, is a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. The animal is included as part of the treatment plan and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person’s emotional/psychological challenges.

Emotional Support Animals, specifically dogs should be able to:

  • Walk beside you without straining against the leash
  • Sit on command
  • Come when called
  • Lie down on command
  • Show no aggression toward humans or other animals when unprovoked

For more information, or to register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal, visit the National Service Animal Registry website and complete the brief form and pay the registration fee.

By completing this process and certifying your pet as an Emotional Support Animal, you are protecting yourself in several situations. There are laws that protect individuals with service or emotional support animals, including housing and landlord/tenant laws.

While pets require a certain level of commitment and responsibility, this may not be appropriate for everyone’s situation. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the love of an animal.

There are non-profits throughout the country that provide visiting pet services. PAWS for People™ is a non-profit committed to providing therapeutic visits to individuals within their service community who would benefit from interaction with a well-trained, loving pet. To find programs in your area, search “therapy animal” and your city.

Show your #PetLove and share your favorite #MSAAPets stories about you & your pet with us!

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For additional information, please visit the sites below:

NSAR- National Service Animal Registry: https://www.nsarco.com/; 866-737-3930

Paws for People: http://www.pawsforpeople.org/; 302-351-5622

Canines Companion for Independence: www.cci.org;1-800-572-BARK (2275)

Paws with a Cause: www.pawswithacause.org; 800-253-7297

Pet Partners: www.petpartners.org; 425-679-5500

Service Dogs for America: www.servicedogsforamerica.org; 701-685-2242

Service Dogs for Independence: www.servicedogsforindependence.com; 520-909-0531

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Four Legged Friends

I think that one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences in life is to own a pet. Pets provide us with a feeling that is really hard to describe; it’s a feeling of companionship, support, and love all bundled up into one being. The feeling of love is one which is an unconditional love that no matter how bad of a day you are having, they are there to support you and love you. Pets provide comfort, a shoulder to cry on, or a “person” to talk to who can just listen.

For me, one of the best benefits of having a pet is- no talking back! No snide comments or judgments about why you are or are not doing something. I am sure there are people that think I am crazy because I talk to my dog like she is human. There’s just something cathartic about it, knowing that I can share anything and not be judged..

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself” –Martin Buber

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When you have another life that looks up to you and relies on you for their well-being, it promotes a sense of self-worth. You want to be your best to provide for your pet. It is said that petting a dog releases beneficial hormones into the bloodstream known to be associated with healing and feelings of well-being. Not only that, but they make you laugh. And laughing is known to protect your body from stress. I laugh every day at dinner when my three year old dog gulp’s down her food like someone is trying to steal it from her, then proceeds to let out a HUGE belch when she is finished! The power of laughter is contagious and lightens your burdens and inspires hopes.

There is a pet out there for everyone. If you are having issues with mobility, or fear not having the energy to “play” with your pet, consider a cat, or a bird; both of which are fairly self-sufficient animals and can get by on their own during the time when you don’t have the energy. Maybe pet ownership isn’t for you at all, sometimes the financial burden and responsibility is too much.

That doesn’t mean you still can’t be affected by the power of a pet. There are several options for individuals to interact with animals through either therapy animal or service animal A therapy animal is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in need. They, along with their handlers, come to your home or facility for visits. Therapy animals differ from service animals in that they are not trained to perform a task for the benefit of an individual. A Service Animal is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This can include guide, mobility, sound alert, and medical alert/response work. Service Animals can provide the same level of support and comfort that a therapy animal can, however, they take their jobs very seriously!

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If you are interested in finding out more about therapy animals or service animals, there are several organizations and programs available to assist with your search. Pet Partners is one organization that helps people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives. Their website http://www.petpartners.org/ provides information and resources for individuals interested in therapy or service animals.
How have you been affected by a pet? Have you ever considered a service animal?

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