USO Alaska incorporates pet therapy as one of many resiliency support initiatives at various USO locations throughout the state. Many service members are unable to have a pet, particularly when living in dorms or barracks and when deployed in service to our country. A little puppy love goes a LONG way!
USO Alaska collaborates with certified animal therapy teams such as Pet Partners, a premier animal therapy non-profit organization specializing in animal therapy for more than 40 years. Certified animal therapy teams are trained, evaluated prior to certification, provided with ongoing training and education, and then re-evaluated every two years.
Volunteers in the Therapy Animal Program interact with a wide variety of clients including veterans with PTSD, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students with literacy challenges, patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities, and those approaching end of life.
A variety of animals are used in animal-assisted therapy, including horses, dogs, rabbits, cats, pigs, llama, domesticated rodents and even birds. Studies have shown the benefits of animal assisted therapy include but are not limited to: increased self-esteem and ability to care for oneself’; reduced anxiety, grief and isolation; reduced blood pressure, reduced depression, and a lower risk of heart attack or stroke.
NOTE: Therapy animals are NOT the same as service or emotional support animals. Therapy animals are typically trained for the benefit of many others, whereas service and emotional support animals are trained to support the needs of one specific person. Therapy animals are not entitled to fly for free in the passenger compartments of planes, accompany individuals into restaurants, or given exceptions to no-pet policies in living quarters, whereas service and emotional support animals do have expanded rights in support of individuals that need them.
Pet Therapy visits are scheduled in advance and listed on USO Alaska Center monthly event calendars for USO JBER, USO Eielson AFB and USO Fort Wainwright.
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