Animal human bond | Kay Trotter

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All Posts Tagged: Animal human bond

History Making Bill…Animal Assisted Therapy Law

On October 1st 2013 Connecticut will make history by enacting the FIRST Animal Assisted Therapy Bill

As the first bill of its kinds Connecticut realized the emotional and psychology benefits of including an animal in the mental health therapy treatment process.

Some of the bill highlights include

  • Training  individuals on (1) the healing value of the human-animal bond 
for children, (2) the value of therapy animals in dealing with 
traumatic situations, and (3) the benefit of an animal assisted therapy 
  • Collaboration with mental health 
care providers to incorporate animal assisted therapy into the therapy for children and youth.
  • Develop a coordinated volunteer canine crisis response team for crisis intervention.
  • Develop a results based 
accountability assessment of the results of animal assisted programs.

Below is the complete Connecticut Animal Assisted Therapy Bill 

History Making Bill Signed by Connecticut Governor – here is the actual bill


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2013) (a) For purposes of this 
section, “animal assisted therapy” means goal-directed intervention in 
which animals are used as an integral part of the treatment process for 
individuals who have experienced mental, physical or emotional trauma and “animal assisted therapy community” 
means the local or regional entities possessing the staff and 
capabilities to engage in animal assisted therapy including, but not 
limited to, the Connecticut Humane Society, Soul Friends, Inc. and 
Animal Assisted Therapy Services, Inc.

(b) Not later than 
January 1, 2014, the Commissioner of Children and Families, within 
available appropriations, shall develop and implement training for 
certain employees of the Department of Children and Families and mental 
health care providers, on (1) the healing value of the human-animal bond 
for children, (2) the value of therapy animals in dealing with 
traumatic situations, and (3) the benefit of an animal assisted therapy 

(c) Not later than January 1, 2014, the Commissioner 
of Children and Families, in consultation with the Governor’s Prevention
Partnership and the animal assisted therapy community and within available appropriations, shall develop and operate, or contract for, an
animal assisted therapy program. Such program shall: (1) Provide animal
 assisted therapy to children and youths living with trauma and loss; 
(2) provide animal assisted therapy to children and youths with 
behavioral health needs who are in the custody of the Department of 
Children and Families; (3) allow for collaboration with mental health 
care providers to incorporate animal assisted therapy into the therapy 
plan for youths or children; (4) promote the healing benefits of the 
human-animal bond by providing interactive empathetic training 
activities with therapy animals; (5) incorporate nonverbal learning into
the formulation of trauma treatment modalities; and (6) demonstrate 
positive outcomes for children.

(d) Not later than January 1, 
2014, the Commissioner of Children and Families, in consultation with 
the Commissioner of Agriculture and within available appropriations, 
shall develop a coordinated volunteer canine crisis response team. Such 
team shall consist of various handlers and canines that have been 
trained and certified to provide comfort and relief to individuals 
during and after traumatic events. Such team shall operate on a 
volunteer basis and shall be available to provide animal assisted 
therapy within twenty-four hours of receiving notice to do so.

(e) Not later than January 1, 2014, the Commissioner of Children and 
Families, in consultation with the Commissioner of Agriculture and the 
joint standing committee on children, shall develop a results based 
accountability assessment of the results of the programs implemented 
pursuant to subsections (b) to (d), inclusive, of this section to (1) 
determine the effectiveness of animal assisted therapy, (2) begin the 
process of identifying curriculum-based animal assisted therapy as a 
potential best practice approach, and (3) demonstrate positive outcome 
measures in hopefulness, tied to resilience in the literature and other 
social emotional measures of healthy child development.


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The Gift of the Animal Human Bond

I am honored to have this moving blog post by Laura Hickman. Be sure to have some kleenex close by as she opens a door and invites you in to her childhood. A childhood filled with some very painful memories, and how an abandoned horse galloped through Laura’s life, giving her confidence, courage, and passion – Laura Hickman lives in Linden, VA and is a home school mom of 4 children, aged 6-12. She is an aspiring Equine Specialist and hopes to have her own farm in the near future.

Laura and Poppins

I loved my Dad.  We did a lot together while my mom studied to become a nurse.  He would pick me up from childcare, make my special bread so I wouldn’t be embarrassed at school (I had severe allergies), and take me fishing.  We’d watch TV together while I put lotion on his forearms where the Marine Corp tattoos had been removed.  We even had a stash of Pringles secreted away under the front seat of his VW Bug.  We were inseparable!

Unfortunately, by the time I was 7, my parents were battling their way through a not-so-nice divorce when my father, instead of taking me to school as planned, kidnapped me.  His hope was that my mother would become so distraught that she would commit suicide.  The only details I remember of the days I was in hiding are the fact that I had a stuffed Snoopy toy, and that my mother swooped in to rescue me as I was making mud pies in the backyard.  It was then that fear entered my heart.  Fear of being left, and fear of being kidnapped again.

Six years later, in 1983, my mom remarried.  We moved to a new house and I, to a new school.  Moving and attending a new school were positive experiences for me, having a step-father was not.

My step-father was a very bright man who had escaped from Hungary, a country behind the Iron Curtain, with nothing but a sandwich in his pocket and the clothes on his back.  Within 10 months of arriving in the United States, he had learned enough English at Georgetown University to be accepted into an Engineering program at the University of Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it became apparent that he was dealing with severe psychological issues which he was no longer able to suppress successfully.  In 1986, he was diagnosed with depression, and Paranoid Schizophrenia, shortly before taking his own life.  His bursts of anger and the yelling that ensued were frightening.  I didn’t want to be at home, yet I felt that I needed to be home to protect my mom.  His anger was not limited to yelling – on separate occasions he pinned my mom on the floor, threw a drink at her, and disconnected the garage door openers so we couldn’t get in the house.  Another time, he accused me of slamming a door in his face.  In my minds’ eye I can still see him entering his room when I slammed the door, but that didn’t prevent him from breaking down the door and striking me across the face.  He refused to repair the shattered door frame for several months, wanting me to remember my offense, and the subsequent punishment.

It was during this time that Poppins came into my life.  She was a 26-year-old mare that had been abandoned by an owner that could no longer afford to keep her.  She had been fed, but not much else.  Each night was spent in a tiny standing stall with so much manure that she was forced to stand facing downhill.  Despite her discomfort from severe thrush and an unseasonably long coat, she was a gentle teacher who never lost her patience with my ignorance.  She gave me so much more than riding lessons.  Her gifts to me were confidence, courage, and passion.  And she had the best ear of any counselor.   I could pour out my heart to her without fear of what she thought, or that she would report back to my mom.  She wouldn’t leave me and she loved me despite all she knew about me.

Helen Thompson once said, “In riding a horse, we borrow freedom.”  There could not be a truer statement for me.  Riding was my avenue of escape and healing.  It gave me confidence, and made me feel strong, both mentally and physically.

Without Poppins, and the horses that galloped through my life after her, I would not be the person I am today.  There is not a doubt in my mind that horses kept me from the drugs, crime and promiscuity that snare so many others with similar experiences.

Poppins is the very definition of a hero!  She selflessly carried me and shared her friendship, happy only in my companionship and attention, and all despite her pain.  I didn’t know it then, but as my horse knowledge has increased, I see now that she probably suffered from Cushing’s and Chronic Laminitis.

I’ve always known that I loved Poppins, but I never realized until writing this blog just how deep her impact really was.  It has taken me several months to finish these few paragraphs…I had to stop and grieve my loss of her.  I found out this year that the owner of the barn had offered to sell her to my mom and step dad for $100, but they turned her down.  Instead, she went to a girl who thought it was a good idea to call me and brag that Poppins was no longer my friend, but hers.  I have never forgotten that call.

That call was the last I ever heard about Poppins.  I don’t know how much longer she lived, or where they might have buried her.  I wish I could kiss her sweet muzzle just one more time…

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What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Guest AuthorDaniella San Martin-Feeney is the Program Coordinator for Chimo Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). Chimo AAT is a non-profit initiative based in Edmonton, Canada, which facilitates the implementation of AAT programs in health and social service facilities, as well as schools.  Their focus is on mental health, and their mission is to facilitate the use of animals to help those in need.

Murphy - certified therapy dog

If you’re like most people, even if you’ve heard the term animal assisted therapy (AAT), you’re not entirely sure what it entails.  You know there is an animal or many animals involved, and you assume there must be some kind of therapy!  Well, hopefully this post clears up some of the unknowns for you.

AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is an integral part of the treatment process.  A therapist who utilizes AAT operates from their professional foundation and facilitates change in a client through the client’s interactions with an animal. AAT differs from other forms of therapy with animals in that AAT is the most clinical of all therapeutic interventions with an animal.  Clients have specific goals set by the therapists, and the outcomes of AAT are measured by the therapist.

Other forms of therapeutic interactions between humans and animals include pet visitation and animal assisted activities (AAA).  Pet visitation allows for informal interaction between animals and clients, however no goals are set and no specific outcomes are expected.  AAA involves the intentional use of companion animals to provide opportunities for motivational, recreational and educational benefits.  Again, there are no set goals for clients participating in AAA.

AAT, AAA and pet visitation all have numerous therapeutic benefits.  There are however, differences between them.  A single client may enjoy the benefits of different types of interactions with animals.  For example, a client may have the chance to cuddle a cat through a pet visitation program.  The visit with the cat makes the client happy, and even helps to relieve some stress.  Later that day, the same client may work with psychologist who is using AAT.  The psychologist may use a dog’s behavior or perceived feelings as an analogy for the client’s behavior, or feelings.  In this way, observing and interacting with a dog may bring about insight about a client’s self, and help the client to progress in their therapy.  In an AAT setting, the therapist is documenting the client’s progress.  Both pet visitation and AAT interactions with animals are beneficial to the client, in different ways.

AAT is used by many different professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, nurses, recreation therapists, teachers, counselors, and other therapists.    It can take place in a variety of settings, from the typical office setting, to a ranch off the beaten path!

Many different types of animals are appropriate for use in AAT.  In urban settings, we most often see dogs, and less frequently, cats.  A popular sub-field of AAT is equine assisted therapy, or equine assisted counseling.  This almost always takes place on a farm or ranch.  Of course, many ranches used as counseling centers are home to many helping critters, and even small animals such as rabbits and birds can be highly effective helpers in therapy.

I hope this helps give you a clearer picture of what AAT is.  Did it help?  Do you have other burning questions about AAT?

Be sure to watch for Daniella  AAT case studies that feature three of her certified therapy dogs: Murphy (pictured above), Marley and Donovan.

Visit Daniella at Chimo Animal Assisted Therapy web page:

Check our her blog at:

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