BATON ROUGE, LA — The LSU College of Agriculture is looking for canine and feline companions to help in offering therapeutic medical treatment in the surrounding area.
The Agriculture Residential College program, or ARC, is actively seeking volunteers to allow their dogs and cats to take part in the college’s Animal Assisted Therapy, or AAT, program.
“We’re looking for a few more good dogs and cats of any shape and size,” said Betsy Garrison, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and rector for the ARC program.
Arrangements have been made for Diane Sylvester, director of the LSU’s Veterinary School’s Tiger HATS program, to evaluate dogs and cats on Wednesday, September 25, on the grounds of the LSU Vet School, beginning at 6 p.m.
AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal – in this instance, a dog or cat – is used as an integral part of the medical treatment process. AAT has been used to establish a human-animal bond and promote good health and the recovery of illness and some diseases. First documented in 1962, some of the benefits of AAT have been found in educational, physical, cognitive and psychological rehabilitation. It is used in operating rooms, intensive care units, pediatric centers and with psychiatric patients, particularly those diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. AAT has been found to decrease blood pressure during stressful activities in older hypertensive patients, to provide psychological benefits for children diagnosed with autism by helping to increase social behavior and has been used in the rehabilitation of inmates.
Pairing animals with students in the ARC, the LSU AAT program covers steps for training the students and the dogs and cats, evaluation and the types of dogs and cats that can take part in the program. Topics cover preparing the animals for visits, identifying and decreasing stress in the animals, animal health and safety, special needs of patients, interacting with people, facility health and safety codes and patient confidentiality.
Evaluations also test the handler and animal working as a team. These tests include the ability of the handler student to control the dog and the dog’s behavioral skills and simulating conditions that may occur during the visit and interaction with the evaluator.
As required by health facilities and Pet Partners, formerly the Delta Society and a national therapy and service animal organization to whose requirements the LSU program adheres, the animals have to pass a physical exam, be current on vaccinations and be free of internal and external parasites. All animals must be on a leash at all times.
To volunteer a dog or a cat for the ARC’s Animal Assisted Therapy program, or for more information on the program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org  or contact Garrison at 225-578-2081 or email email@example.com .