The role that animals play in creating optimal healing environments has gained recognition in all kinds of health care settings. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is an intentional healing modality used to achieve therapeutic goals through a facilitated interaction between patients and trained animals (as therapist) accompanied by human owners or handlers. Animals involved are commonly dogs and cats, but use of fish and guinea pigs in the hospital setting has been reported. As long ago as 1860, Florence Nightingale commented that “a small pet is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.”11 (p103)

More than 100 years later, the immediate and long-term human health benefits of animals on the mind, body, and spirit continue to be documented. Effects of AAT are primarily attributed to “contact comfort,” a tactile process whereby unconditional attachment bonds...

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