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Animal-Assisted Therapy

You know, better than anyone, the positive impact your pet has on your life. But can that sense of healing and unconditional love (supplied by your furry friend) be transferred into therapy? At The Centre for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), USA, cutting-edge research is underway to document the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy, and it appears that the answer is a definitive “yes”.


Established in the VCU School of Medicine in June 2001, the purpose of the Centre is to provide a formal structure for and promote research, clinical practice, and educational activities related to the human-animal relationship. The Centre’s mission is to improve health and well being through human-animal interaction.

Current research at CHAI includes an investigation of the effect of animal-assisted therapy on patients referred for pain and palliative care, and a study on brain wave activity in normal adults interacting with a therapy dog.


A pilot study conducted by the centre suggests that healthcare professionals, who spend as little as five minutes with a therapy dog, experience the same levels of stress reduction as healthcare professionals who spend twenty minutes resting quietly.

CHAI also serves the VCU Health System through its Dogs on Call programme, which provides therapeutic visits to patients and staff members in paediatrics, oncology, psychology, psychiatry, emergency medicine, rehabilitation and physical therapy.


References: Nepps, P., Stewart, C.N. & Bruckno, S.R. 2014 Animal Assisted Activity: Effects of a Complementary Intervention Program on Psychological and Physiological Variables.

Hosey, MM Jakulski, J., Wegener, S.T., Chlan, L.L. & Needham, D.M. 2018 Animal Assisted Intervention in ICU: A Tool for Humanisation