Researchers at major academic institutions in the United States have been awarded funding through the National Institutes of Health/Mars–WALTHAM™ Public-Private Partnership. These new studies will examine the impact of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in special populations. Research topics funded include:
Strategies to improve health-related outcomes in children or adults with physical, mental or emotional disabilities or mental health issues are urgently required. Interest in the therapeutic potential of companion animals, especially dogs has been growing and their inclusion in healthcare settings is relatively commonplace. This has occurred in the absence of a full assessment of the efficacy and safety of these interventions. Rigorous scientific studies are now required to fully evaluate and critically assess the potential of therapy animals to improve health-related outcomes in these groups.
“We are now in a really important era for building the evidence base around animal-assisted interventions in special need and at-risk populations” said Layla Esposito, Program Director at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “These studies will help the field better determine which interventions are effective for whom and under what conditions. Future findings are expected to have a significant impact on clinical practice and future animal-assisted therapy research”.