Amidst all of the depressing news stories this week, it is wonderful to hear something positive in this field. Today, in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in North Wales, another 'Pets As Therapy' initiative has been launched. The Pets As Therapy (PAT) charity does some really tremendous work. Primarily, it organises visits by volunteer pet owners and their animals to people who are residents in hospitals, hospices, residential homes, nursing homes, day car centres, and special needs schools.
The launch today in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd follows the introduction this initiative in the mental health Ablett Unit at Glan Clwyd hospital twelve months ago. A spokesperson has said that the dogs have been a huge success in this unit and the "feedback from the patients has been extremely positive." According to BBC news, the launch at Glan Clwyd means that the service will now be available at other hospitals inj North Wales too. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-14173175
Incidentally, a similar story featured in today's Los Angeles Times - 'Therapy Dogs make the rounds in more healthcare settings', showing this is not a pratice confined to the UK. The LAT reports that "across the country, more than 10,000 trained person-plus-pet teams are registered in Pet Partners, a program established in 1990 by the Delta Society, a nonprofit organization that believes positive interactions with animals can improve people's health and well-being." http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-therapy-dogs-20110718,0,4456307.story
It is widely known that many people experience profound health benefits from spending time with dogs and cats. Animals encourage interaction in patients who wouldn’t usually get involved in social activity thus boosting their confidence and can have a very positive effect upon people with communication difficulties enabling them to particpate in the life of the community.
The question I would like to raise is: does the fact that pets can help people in such a way mean that access to pets could, whilst in a healthcare setting at least, be part of our human rights? Indeed this seems far fetched at first but it is possible to make some links. What about the right to companionship, for instanc? Or the right to particpate in community life (Art 29 (i) of the ICESCR)? Can we go even further? Dr. Edward Creagan, interviewed as part of the LAT article , believes that pets are embedded in the soul of our humanity. Is he right? It is certainly something to think on...