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Friday, November 2, 2018 - 12:30pm

During Vet Tech Week, Mercy College kicked off a new series of workshops designed to explore the wide variety of innovations, benefits and opportunities in the field of animal assisted therapy.

“Lend a Helping Paw: Animal Assisted Therapy, Service Animals and More” is a three-part workshop series designed to explore the many ways that animals—sometimes known as service animals or therapy animals—play a key role in human health, not only by helping vulnerable populations but also by contributing to the quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. The project was developed and presented by Dr. Sabrina Timperman, Associate Director and Associate Professor of Veterinary Technology, Dr. Ilene Rothschild, Associate Professor of Special Education, and Molly McCabe, M.A., Director of the Office of ACCESSibility.

“Through research studies and practical application, animals have been shown to support human needs in a myriad of ways,” said Timperman. Most of us have seen someone with a service dog, or have heard about the use of therapy animals to support social emotional, cognitive and physical needs. But there remains a great deal of misinformation and confusion about the topics.

The first workshop, held on the Dobbs Ferry Campus on October 24, provided an overview of the topic, along with a presentation about the distinctions and classifications of animal therapies and the populations who benefit from them. A panel of specialists, which included Mercy faculty as well as people with disabilities and professional representatives from local agencies, fielded questions from the audience and led the breakout sessions.

Future workshops, scheduled for the winter and spring, will delve deeper into ways that animals can help support humans with physical, emotional/behavioral or sensory and communications disabilities in various settings. They will describe the types of services and career opportunities that are available at the College.

The program is open to all, and provides numerous benefits, said the organizers. “Aside from the networking and learning opportunities for students in several disciplines, the workshops help participants to appreciate the bond between animals and humans,” added Timperman. “The workshops also allow participants to witness the value of assisted animal therapies. For students, this may be an introduction to new healthcare career opportunities. For everyone, the workshops help promote social awareness of people with disabilities.”