The distinction between animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities is described well by the Delta Society, a leading international organization that provides training for both types of interventions. The following are definitions given in the Delta Society’s Standards of Practice (1996):
"Animal-Assisted Activities - provide opportunities for socialization, recreation, education and simple comfort and enrichment. The activities are conducted in a variety of settings and include such things as animals visiting nursing homes, schools, libraries and community functions. The animals are trained and screened and are handled by specifically trained volunteers.
Animal-Assisted Therapy - is a more targeted intervention in which the animal is integrated as part of the treatment process for patients. The service has specific goals and is conducted by a trained professional. The use of this intervention is documented and evaluated as to its relevance and usefulness for specific patients. Some of the patient populations who have been described as benefiting from animal-assisted therapy include children with autism and developmental problems, patients with mood and anxiety disorders, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and medically ill patients undergoing difficult treatments and procedures."
Therapeutic Pups is an animal-assisted therapy service since it is being used specifically with adolescent patients with eating disorders and is conducted by a Ph.D. clinical psychologist. Therapeutic Pups does not offer an animal-assisted activity program, although our therapeutic dog, Murphy, does participate at times in performances at the hospital.