Disabled dogs trained to be therapy and emotional support dogs

PETALING JAYA: The use of disabled canines as therapy and emotional support dogs is already established in most developed countries.

Former Zoo Negara assistant director Assoc Prof Datuk Dr S. Vellayan said this was because these special dogs were found to be suitable in these two areas.

"It has been found that disabled dogs which have been rehabilitated and cared for are more disciplined and obedient,'' said Dr Vellayan, who is now with Universiti Teknologi Mara's Puncak Alam campus.

He added because they had been dependant on a host of carers during their rehabilitation and post-injury, these dogs easily bond with people.

"This is also a factor which allows the dogs to be trained to bring comfort to people,'' said Dr Vellayan, who was commenting on newly formed animal-assisted therapy organisation Happy Animal Assisted Therapy Society or Happy Therapy for short.

The pioneering effort of introducing the use of disabled and mixed-breed dogs, as therapy and emotional support dogs here, is a brainchild of canine welfare project Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB).

Happy Therapy adviser and consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj concurred and added using disabled dogs was taking animal assisted therapy to a higher level.

"It will further contribute towards improving the motivation of patients and indeed inspire those who require therapy via the bond that will be formed between the dog and the client, be it a special child or an adult,'' said Dr Andrew who is also Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president.

Happy Therapy president Peter Tan said they were excited and looking forward to the use of special animals as therapy and emotional support dogs.

"We believe these brave dogs that had survived against all odds will do much good and will render great service,'' said Tan who is paralysed and uses a wheelchair.

As more global rescue groups shun the idea of euthanising seriously injured animals, that can be treated and rehabilitated, using disabled dogs for animal assisted therapy is slowly taking root.

In the USA, Southern California-based Dharma Rescue is one of the independent rescue groups that is making a name for itself in training disabled dogs as therapy dogs.

These dogs are a common sight in schools where they provide stress relief for children with learning disabilities, behavioural problems and autism.

Happy Therapy's disabled therapy and emotional support dogs will be trained by Dr Dog Malaysia.

The Dr Dog programme is a renowned animal-assisted therapy programme pioneered by award winning animal activist and founder of Animals Asia Jill Robinson.

Robinson's Dr Dog programme rescues strays and trains them into therapy dogs.

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