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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Therapy and Service Animals

What is a service animal exactly? How does that relate to a therapy or emotional support animal? We see these animals on campus, riding the T, walking around—but what do we really know about them? Those who have physical disabilities like deafness, blindness, or paralysis in some way are the ones who use service animals. A service animal is rigorously trained to earn their title. They’re extremely smart and learn to pick up on specific signs their owner may give if they need help (warning signs of a seizure, falling down and not getting up, etc). Maybe the owner has anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or anything in between. Therapy animals are for those who need some emotional support because of their mental state. 

Many people bash on therapy animals because of the bad rep they get from the media. Not everyone brings chickens or peacocks or ducks onto their flights. It really is an actual needed thing, so it’s sad when people roll their eyes over it or think they’re not needed. Because it is such a broad subject, there aren’t many specific rules or qualifications to get an animal to become officially certified to become a therapy animal. There are forms online you can fill out, but the best and most legitimate way to get one is to go through a counselor you have regularly been seeing. For most places to accept your certification (for example, University of Massachusetts dorms) you will have to have it actually filled out by a licensed psychiatrist, not some website you paid $100 to. Pro tip: don’t waste your money just for a piece of paper you could print off of google.

I say all of this because I have my own therapy animal, my 3 year old mini-lop rabbit. I was able to give her this title after discussing with my doctor the benefits I may receive if we went forward with it. Because I have generalized anxiety that I take medicine for daily, I am someone who is in some form of need.

So how does this work?

I get overwhelmed and worked up easily. It can come out of nowhere, or it could be a build up over time. This is my first year away from home, and it obviously is a big change to first begin college. My rabbit reminds me of a piece of home, while also bringing me joy from the companionship and love she gives me.

It may sound super odd to you if you have never had a bunny as a pet before, but contrary to popular belief, these animals have real personalities just like dogs and cats! My bunny greets me every morning with kisses (licks all over) and circling my feet to let me know how happy she is to see me. For someone who can easily feel forgotten or a bother, I feel really good to know she needs me, loves me, and is always happy to see me.

Therapy and service animals are amazing and I’m really glad they’re a part of our society. As such an animal-loving person, I really benefit from their involvement in our day-to-day lives. These animals are capable of so much and can do crazy awesome things when given the proper training and handling. Always remember not to approach a service or therapy animal, they are considered working, and it’s important that they stay focused on what’s going on with their owner—it’s their job! And trust me, they’re very loved and well taken care of, they’re just happy to help.

About the Contributor
Grace Smith, Editor-in-Chief