"The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment." - American Veterinary Medical Association
Companion animals offer security, companionship, comfort, and unconditional love. Pet therapy programs bring those and other benefits to people in health facilities, shelters, schools, libraries, and other settings where people may not be able to have pets of their own. Pet therapy is a broad term that includes animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and other animal-assisted activities (AAA).
AAT is a growing field in which dogs or other animals are included in a patient's treatment plan in order to assist with recovery or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders.
AAA on the other hand, have a more general purpose, such as providing comfort and enjoyment for nursing home residents by way of recreational or visitation programs.
Much research has been done on the benefits of pet therapy. Pet therapy, regardless of which intervention type, has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also help increase self-esteem, improve social skills, and help children improve their reading and communication skills.