When news of a therapy duck on a short domestic flight broke, we got to wondering: are there any farm animals that can't be used for therapy?
The therapy duck was prescribed after a serious car accident gave one woman PTSD.
After months of physical therapy, but still suffering mentally, a therapy animal was suggested as a possible solution—and a duck, whose name is Daniel, appeared to have a calming effect.
Therapy animals have a fairly old history, but have only recently become more widely accepted and utilized. The concept is that many animals have a positive effect on anxiety and depression—so why not simply have the animal walk around with the person who needs it?
For obvious reasons, dogs are the most common therapy animal; they’re easily trained, their presence is accepted in many situations, and they’re easy to take care of (relative to other animals). But what other animals are can be therapy companions? Any farm animals? We looked into it.
The most common farm animal therapy is undoubtedly equine-related therapy. Equines ranging from horses to ponies to donkeys to miniature horses are very often picked for the job, especially for veterans and for the disabled. Horses seem to be particularly effective for the physically disabled; people who can’t walk can often still ride horses, which allows them to strengthen their arms and core while also being close to a warm, friendly horse.
Next up is our old friend, the goat. Therapy goats are perhaps the most common farmyard therapy animal after horses. Some popular breeds, like the Nigerian dwarf goat, are easily trained, highly sociable, nonviolent, and extremely entertaining, which has meant that many therapy goat programs have popped up across the country.
Therapy chickens are slightly less common, but not unheard of. The main benefit of a therapy chicken is that keeping a chicken requires some time and effort, but is fairly easy: excellent for those who need a basic task to complete. Besides that, chickens are also very funny, weird animals, which can only help.
Potbellied pigs, while not exactly the kind of pig as you’d find on a farm, have proven highly capable as therapy animals. While dogs can be threatening to som —autistic kids, for example, can sometimes be scared of them—pigs are universally seen as nonthreatening, and they can also be quite affectionate and trainable.
Lastly, sheep can also be kind and easy to work with. They tend not to bite or kick and have proven ideal as therapy animals in some situations.
Turns out, pretty much any farm animal can be used as a therapy animal — it’s all about what works for the individual.