The Aug. 30 Style article “Finding warm support from a cold-blooded companion,” about a man and his “emotional support” alligator convoluted the purpose of therapy animals and did a grave disservice to millions of people who rely on them to experience life to its fullest potential. Alligators are extremely dangerous, wild animals that do not meet the rigorous standards of a therapy animal. As framed, this story ignored the serious nature of therapy-animal protocol and, worse, undermined the merits of the treatment modality by pushing the idea that this program simply means acquiring a pet.
American Humane advocates the adherence to a therapeutic animal-assisted protocol that conforms to infection control, risk management and other safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the facility in which the service is provided. Participating animal handlers should be trained, certified and have the established right to use the animal in a therapy setting. Participating animals must be domesticated, and they must be humanely trained and treated.
Animal-assisted therapy programs save countless lives and provide people with a sense of hope and resilience that they once thought was lost. Much like the trained animals themselves, this program should be treated with the respect it so desperately deserves.
Robin Ganzert, Washington
The writer is president and chief executive of American Humane.
Read the full Washington Post piece here.