A horse joins the pet therapy team

Photo courtesy Tallahassee memorial animal therapy program

Pets come with some powerful health benefits. And hospitals are well aware of their power.

Pet therapy, the utilization of trained animals to benefit patients and improve results, is designed to address patients’ pressure and stress  while in medical settings.

Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy is the only program of its kind in the Big Bend. This program has been fostering the therapeutic bond between people and animals since 2005, according to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.

“The program has a huge positive impact on people’s lives,” said Heather Gainey, the program’s coordinator.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare has added a new animal to its team: Scout, an 18-year-old horse and therapy expert, recently joined Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s animal therapy team at Mahan Farm. Scout’s speciality is humans. He helps patients in recovery gain some of their strength.

Scout is joining Snuggles and Bella, the only two other horses on the animal therapy team at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

“Scout is the only standard-size horse we have within the program. He brightens everyone’s day. It’s wonderful to bring some agricultural animals into the program for those who grew up on farms, Scout has such a kind soul,” Gainey said.

“Due to Scout‘s size he can’t be inside the facilities so we trailer him to the facility and the  patients are brought out to him since he’s so large. We position a covered walkway to bring patients out to him for physical therapy, mobility and balance to give the patient’s motivation,” Gainey added. “Scout helps patients when it comes to calming them down, stress, and he helps individuals with rehabilitation, pull on up on for rehabilitation due to his size, motor skills and much more. His calm demeanor is amazing when working with the patients,” said Anna Sanders, communications strategist at TMH.

“Pet therapy is also good for senior services, Animal therapy teams visit nearly all facilities serving seniors in the Big Bend. That’s because interacting with animals is proven to enhance their socialization skills, including their desire to socialize,  medial rehabilitation, Hundreds of clinical trials have shown that petting an animal reduces the blood pressure and heart rate, thus reducing stress and anxiety.”

TMH also provides courthouse pet therapy to victims of violent crimes and children to help them provide accurate statements in court, according to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

“The program is volunteer based, all animals are certified ,they are required to have a certain level of testing, due to noise, machine equipment and much more. We do extensive screening,” Gainey said.

COVID-19 has changed the scope of services, Gainey added. “Right now animals are not within the facility, but we are doing animal tele therapy over Zoom and outside at the healing garden through windows,” she said.

If you would like to contact the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy program you can email  AnimalTherapy@TMH.ORG or call (850)431-1155