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25 Fascinating Pet Therapy Statistics in 2021

Dean Eby

Pet therapy has proven to be incredibly helpful for many people. Service animals of all types bring people more than just comfort. They can help to alleviate depression, guide the blind, alert the deaf to sounds they can’t hear, and many perform many other vital jobs that they’re well suited for. Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough service animals to fill the giant demand for their services, but we’ll take a closer look at that in this article, along with 24 other fascinating pet therapy statistics.

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Fascinating Pet Therapy Statistics

1. Just 12 Minutes of Pet Therapy Improves Important Health Markers

According to a study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, patients hospitalized with heart failure that received a 12-minute visit from a therapy dog saw decreases in blood pressure, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and anxiety during and after the interaction. This was compared to the results of control groups that had no visit and those that received a visit from a volunteer person. Those visited by the service dogs saw the greatest improvements.

woman and her pet dog at the back of a truck
Image Credit: Cindy Parks, Pixabay

2. Patients in Animal Therapy Meet Their Goals Faster

Animals can help patients achieve more during recovery than they’d be able to on their own, which can speed up the recovery process and reduce overall time spent in therapy. For example, patients petting a dog are able to stand for longer periods of time than they could do without the aid of the animal to pet.


3. You Don’t Have to Love Animals to Benefit from Animal Therapy

It’s sensible to assume that you must love animals for animal therapy to provide any benefits, but one study shows that’s not true. After experiencing a stressful situation, participants in this study were made to hold either a turtle, an animal, or nothing for those in the control group. Petting animals, both turtles and rabbits, showed a positive anxiety-reducing effect that was not recorded in either the control group or the groups holding toys. As it turns out, this effect wasn’t limited to those that loved animals. The positive effects seemed the same, despite the person’s attitude towards animals.

turtle on hand
Image Credit: nachalla, Pixabay

4. Animal Therapy Can Aid Dementia Patients

One study performed with dementia patients seems to indicate that therapeutic sessions with therapy animals can have notable and positive effects. The patients in this study exhibited fewer agitated behaviors and an increase in social interactions following pet therapy. Animal therapy was administered during the “intervention” phase of the study, during which, participants showed positive improvements almost immediately. During the follow-up portion of the study, the positive effects seemed to diminish quite rapidly after the cessation of animal therapy sessions.


5. Dolphin Therapy Appears to Be More Effective Against Depression than Medication

In 2005, a study was performed to record how dolphins affected clinically depressed patients that had recently stopped taking medication or participating in psychotherapy. One group of participants was randomly chosen to complete dolphin therapy while participants in the other group snorkeled around a coral reef. The dolphin group saw a much greater improvement in depression-related scores than the snorkeling group. This study also seemed to show that dolphin therapy helped reduce depression-related symptoms faster than psychotherapy or medication.

man swimming with a dolphin
Image Credit: hotfeal2001, Pixabay

6. Even Insects Can Help Your Health

The positive benefits that animal therapy can provide for your mental health don’t necessarily require you to get an animal with extensive care requirements like a dog. In fact, you get the same or at least similar benefits from insects! A study published in Gerontology in 2016 shows that even caring for a few crickets can help decrease depression and improve cognitive function in the elderly.


7. Observing a Fish Tank Can Reduce Stress Related to Dental Surgery

Fish tanks can be a joy to observe, but you probably didn’t realize that they’re also great for your health. Notable decreases in blood pressure were observed in people who spent a short time watching a fish tank in laboratory conditions. Older adults in public subsidized housing also reported higher satisfaction and were more relaced than residents that had no aquariums but received all the same service otherwise. In one study, patients preparing for dental surgery even reported feeling far less stress after observing an aquarium.

aquarium with bright lights
Image Credit: PDPics, Pixabay

8. 7 Species Can Be Certified as Service Animals

When it comes to certified service animals, dogs are definitely the most common. After all, you’ll see service dogs out in public on a somewhat regular basis. When was the last time you saw a service ferret or monkey though? Probably never. Still, both are acceptable service animals. In total, seven animals qualify to become service animals. Dogs, miniature horses, ferrets, potbelly pigs, parrots, boa constrictors, and capuchin monkeys can all be trained for specific service animal roles and receive certification. However, according to the ADA, only dogs are truly recognized as service animals.

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9. Autistic Children Are More Social Around Guinea Pigs

A peer-reviewed study published in 2013 demonstrates that children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) were more social with other children when Guinea Pigs were around than they were when there were toys in the room instead. The children were also recorded smiling, laughing, and displaying other prosocial behaviors far more while displaying fewer negative effects like crying or frowning when animals were present.

young boy playing with guinea pig
Image Credit: mgventer10, Pixabay

10. There Are Several Classifications of Animals for Pet Therapy

Pet therapy is a pretty broad term, and the animals underneath the pet therapy umbrella can be grouped according to what services they provide. AAT animals are used in animal-assisted therapy under the guidance of counselors. Service animals are those animals trained to provide specific services for people with disabilities, such as the blind, deaf, epileptic, autistic, and more. Emotional support animals are not specially trained, but they’re animals that provide emotional support for their owners.


11. Animals May Help with Brain Injuries

Brain injury patients might experience some positive benefits from animal-assisted therapy. While it didn’t seem to increase their attention spans, in one study, patients were seen to be more alert and focused during animal-assisted therapy than at other times.

sick patient walking with dog
Image Credit: Brigitte Vanlerberghe, Pixabay

12. Comfort When You’re Dying

Animals are being used more and more in therapy. When the idea was first presented, many thought it would never amount to anything. But today, the positive effects of animal therapy are well-known. Because animals can be so comforting, hospices often offer pet therapy programs to their dying patients. According to the CDC, more than half of all hospices offer such relief to their patients through animal therapy.


13. Emotional Support Animals Outnumber Service Animals

Emotional support animals don’t have to undergo any official training or receive certification. Because of this, it’s very easy to have almost any animal classified as an emotional support animal. In 2019, there were more than 200,000 new registrations for emotional support animals, showing that the category is growing at an incredible rate.

woman playing with dog in the streets
Image Credit: Zigmars Berzins, Pixabay

14. Businesses Can Be Fined up to $100,000 for ADA Violations

The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it protects the rights of disabled people. One provision in the ADA is to allow service animals into all businesses, buildings, and dwellings. If a business refuses a person to enter because of a registered service animal, they could be subject to fines up to $100,000 with additional fees. States also have their own laws regarding the denial of access to a service animal or disabled person, and in some places, doing so can even result in imprisonment.


Interesting Service Dog Statistics

15. There Are Approximately 500,000 Service Dogs in the US

Service dogs are the most common type of therapy animal, and they can perform a wide range of different functions to help the impaired live more normal lives. Some of these dogs help the physically disabled, visually impaired, deaf, those with PTSD, and many other people who require help that only these animals can truly provide on a 24/7 basis. In the US, there are approximately 500,000 dogs currently certified as legitimate service dogs.

SVVP Klikatá, vedení nevidomého
SVVP Klikatá, vedení nevidomého_Honza Groh_Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0 Unported (Image Credit: Honza Groh, Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0 Unported)

16. 50,000 Therapy Dogs Are in the US

While there are approximately half a million service dogs in America, there are far fewer therapy dogs, which are dogs that are certified for animal-assisted therapy. There are more than 50,000 certified therapy dogs in the US; a number that’s growing all the time.


17. There Are At Least 10 Types of Service Dogs

Many people know that service dogs are used to help lead the blind, but some of the jobs these dogs fill are less well known. For instance, did you know that there are service dogs trained to detect dangerous allergens to prevent their owner from having a life-threatening reaction? There are also seizure response dogs, autism support dogs for children on the spectrum, dogs to support children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, dogs for PTSD therapy, and more.

woman hugging her dog while wearing a mask
Image Credit: JanDix, Pixabay

18. Retrievers Are the Most Popular Service Dogs

There’s almost no limit to what breeds can make great service dogs. If a dog displays the right temperament and characteristics, then its breed isn’t terribly relevant. Still, some breeds have proven to be very adept as the specific skills required for service work, and these breeds have become the most popular and common dogs employed in animal therapy. The two most popular pooches are both retriever breeds. Labrador Retrievers are the single most popular canines for service work, followed closely by Golden Retrievers.


19. It Takes an Average of Three Years to Complete Service Dog Training

Service dogs are not like emotional support animals. True service dogs have to undergo extensive training to qualify for their positions. It’s very difficult, and only a small percentage of dogs that attempt training will receive certification. On average, it will take a dog two years to complete service training and be eligible for certification.

three service dogs
Image Credit: GS S, Pixabay

20. 5% Of Dogs Can Make it as Service Dogs

Being a service dog takes a very specific set of traits. Few dogs have what it takes. It’s estimated that just 5% of dogs are built for this type of work.


21. Less than Half of Dogs Succeed in Service Training

It’s a pretty small percentage of pooches that are ever even entered into service training. Of those dogs, less than half will find success. If the dog receives professional training through an institution, it will have about a 50% chance of succeeding. For dogs trained by their owners, success rates are even lower, falling in the 20%-30% range.

dog training
Image Credit: Mark Minge, Pixabay

22. Service Dogs Cost About $25,000 On Average

Training a service dog can be extremely expensive, but purchasing one is even worse. Prices range from about $15,000 to more than $50,000 for a fully trained and certified service canine. Luckily, since many families in need can’t afford such expensive dogs, many foundations offer fundraising and other ways of helping the families come up with the cost of a trained service dog.


23. 77% of Graduates from CCI Reported Encounters with Fraudulent Service Dogs

Canine Companions for Independence is a legitimate program that helps place service dogs with those in need. The animals they place are certified service dogs, but their owners experience many problems with other dogs out in public that are disguised as service dogs, but really aren’t. 77% of graduates from CCI said they encountered an out-of-control or fraudulent service dog at some point, with more than half reporting their legit service dog was snapped at, bitten, or at least distracted from their work during the encounter.

service dog lying by the shore
Image Credit: Krista Grear, Pixabay

24. Veterans with Service Dogs Display Fewer PTSD Symptoms

A study performed by researchers from the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine shows that war veterans with service dogs display fewer of the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder compared to those that don’t have a service dog. Furthermore, veterans with service dogs report lower levels of anxiety and depression with greater social participation than those veterans living without the aid of a service dog.


25. There Are Just 10,000 Guide Dogs in the US

In people aged 65 years and older, 60% are dealing with impaired vision. Despite this, there are just 10,000 guide dogs in the US. Luckily, only 10% of the blind population is completely blind! Of the 10,000 registered guide dogs in America, 2,000 of them are located in California.

service dog close up
Image Credit: MichaelDarby1976, Pixabay

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Conclusion

Pet therapy is still gaining more mainstream recognition and growing all the time. As it continues to grow, expect to see pet therapy becoming more prevalent. From PTSD to autism, animals can be effective therapy to treat a wide range of conditions, and many animals can be trained to provide service for those in need of a little extra help.


Featured Image Credit: Sven Lachmann, Pixabay

Dean Eby

An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan.  He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning.  An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.