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The rise of therapy animals and the limited research on their efficacy




Melissa Soto cuddles with a therapy dog near a memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, June 14, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
Melissa Soto cuddles with a therapy dog near a memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, June 14, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Humans and animals have long had close and comforting relationships – but does that mean our critter companions are scientifically helpful therapy tools?

A Washington Post article published this week explores what’s already out there, and what’s still missing, in terms of research regarding the efficacy of therapy animals (not to be confused with service animals like seeing-eye dogs).

As we see more and more animals in the workplace, inside restaurants and brought onto airplanes for their comforting presence, how are different companies and businesses responding? Are people abusing the title “therapy animal” so they can take their pets everywhere? Are there risks in using therapy animals before there is clear scientific evidence of their benefits? What if we find out animals aren’t especially therapeutic after all?

Guests:

Hal Herzog, Western Carolina University psychologist; he has studied human-animal interactions for more than twenty years

Alan Beck, director of the Center of the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University