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Could a Wildlife Rehab Center Work for My Child?

Many parents hear about animal therapy for children and wonder if it will be beneficial for their child. In some cases, kids with attachment issues, foster children, and children on the autism spectrum can receive many benefits from working with animals in a therapeutic situation. However, certain types of animal rehab work better than others when it comes to helping kids.

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Wildlife Rehab Centers

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Playing with animals can be beneficial for children with mental health challenges.

According to the State Government of Maine, “Wildlife rehabilitation is the process of providing aid to injured orphaned, displaced, or distressed wild animals in such a way that they may survive when released to their native habitats.” This program is extremely helpful for hurt or sick animals and also for the environment as a whole. With wildlife rehab centers, the focus of the program is on helping the animals rehabilitate.

Therefore, this is not a beneficial program for a child to work through their own issues of abandonment, attachment, etc. Animals in these environments are not gentle or docile enough to be around children. “They will bite, scratch, kick, or do whatever is needed to escape. These animals also may transmit diseases and parasites, many of which are particularly dangerous to children.”

Even children who are well adjusted and only want to learn about nature are not advised to become volunteers at a wildlife rehab center. But those who truly need treatment for different issues with which they may be struggling will need to spend time with animals that are more suitable for therapy, and in these rehabilitation centers, the animals are working through their own issues while rehabilitators attempt to get them ready to be back in the wild.

Animal Therapy

However, animals can be a wonderful help in the treatment of children with mental disorders, histories of abuse, or other issues. According to American Humane, “The bond between children and animals is undeniable,” and sometimes, children are able to open up with animals in ways that they are not able to do with adults. This can be enormously beneficial for children with autism or those living with other disorders. In addition, rehabilitation centers do exist where kids can attend therapy sessions with animals in order to work through some of these issues.

  • There are a number of horse farms where former race horses are available for children to ride and bond with. This can help many kids with autism work on coming out of their shells and experiencing something new that they may come to love. This is called equine therapy.
  • Many animal shelters often provide therapy sessions to individuals of all ages. Kids can spend time with older animals here that are more docile and loving, which can help reduce stress.
  • Dolphin-assisted therapy is another option for kids who could benefit from therapeutic animal-human interactions. According to Winona State University, “DAT, is becoming an increasingly popular treatment for ‘illness, disability, and psychopathology in children and adults.”

Children can benefit immensely from working with animals, but wildlife rehab centers are not the place for them to do so. Because of the volatile state of the animals at these facilities, it is better for kids to receive animal therapy through a professional program (and with trained, docile animals) in order to receive the best results.

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