The benefits of non-traditional service animals are being discovered as demand grows

Therapy animals are holding an ever-more prominent place in our society. Used by people with physical or psychiatric disabilities, service and companion animals can often provide emotional support or perform a specific service or services, such as assisting people with epilepsy. The animal most commonly associated with fulfilling the role of service animal is the dog, however, recently non-traditional animals have been studied and trained as service animals. ABC 7 News looked into this growing trend, and found Professor Aubrey Fine, who has studied the benefits of non-traditional service animals such as birds and pigs. According to Fine, being around animals such as these “changes your neurotransmitters. Even looking at fish, there’s been research that has shown that being around a calm school of fish and looking at the fish actually supports the decrease of anxiety.” In addition, Niki and Jeff Kuklenski of JNK Llama Farm are building a reputation for training llamas to be therapy animals. The llamas have been positively received as therapy animals, especially by elderly people. There are some drawbacks to working with non-traditional service animals, however. Niki admits that, “It’s pretty unusual when you say you have a therapy llama, I get some pretty weird reactions.” And while people are often aware of the protections afforded to people who use dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other local laws, non-traditional service animals receive more scrutiny and requests for justification.

View ABC 7’s report on the rise of non-traditional service animals below.

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Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.