Animal therapies are a group of therapies that involve a person interacting with animals in one form or another.
For example, the person with autism may use an assistance dog, swim with or touch dolphins, learn to ride and groom a horse, or keep a pet hamster.
Different animal therapies are designed to achieve different aims. For example, the animal therapy may be designed to reduce fear of specific animals, teach responsibility and commitment, teach problem-solving and decision-making skills, improve language and social skills, or give the person with autism and his carers an enjoyable time.
Because animal therapies are so diverse and wide-ranging, it is not possible to provide a ranking for this group of interventions as a whole.
Some therapies, such as dolphin or elephant therapy, present a number of ethical issues, and some physical threats, to both people and animals, which may be difficult to overcome.
Other therapies, such as the use of assistance dogs, may be beneficial to some individuals with autism. The benefits reported are not huge but do go some way to making life better for certain individuals.
For these reasons we believe that research into some, but not all, animal therapies may be warranted.
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions