A Practice in Love: Animal Therapy



One can’t argue against the prominence of animal love around us. Between well-supported charities and the number of dog-friendly establishments in Austin, animals are obviously well-received. However, did you know that research is finding that keeping animals as company can be therapeutic? For both physical and emotional therapy, animals are proving again and again to help.

There are both obvious and more subtle benefits. Walking a dog, of course, leads to more exercise and more time spent outdoors. Additionally, animals can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which leads to a decrease in loneliness and anxiety, which in turn can reduce blood pressure. Caring for an animal can give you a sense of purpose and instill nurturing feelings. Even the added structure and routine to a day from caring for an animal has shown to help people simply by giving them something to do and something to hold them accountable for being responsible.

This piece goes more in-depth about the benefits of animal therapy and how to choose the right animal for you and your household: http://www.helpguide.org/life/pets.htm

All this being said, one doesn’t need to adopt a pet to spend time with animals. Organizations like Austin Pets Alive!, Austin Humane Society, Emancipet, and various rescue groups have a huge need for volunteers to bottle-feed kittens in the on-site nursery, walk or run dogs, help socialize shy or scared animals, photograph animals, get to know the animals to then write about them, and so many other opportunities. For those who want to take an animal home but are still nervous about the responsibility, fostering is another option. When you foster an animal, you take them home for a limited amount of time until they are ready to be adopted. Especially in Austin, there are many ways to be around animals without taking on the responsibility of permanently adopting – there are more than enough furry friends in town to go around

 “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

― Charles M. Schulz

Photos and post by Lana Baumgartner

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