When someone thinks about emotional support animals, a cat or dog likely comes to mind. However, Sarah Smith, a United States Marine police officer with an anxiety disorder, relies on a different kind of animal aside from her medication to help her. She found comfort in an African Senegal parrot.
Her parrot, whom she named Zaboomafoo, notices when her anxiety is getting high or when she starts to panic. He then sits on her shoulder, gives her kisses, and whistles to her as encouragement. The parrot does this until her heart rate goes back down.
How Emotional Support Animals Can Help
Pets, including birds, are known to help people with mental health conditions. Aside from providing emotional support, they also help with easing worrying, and they provide companionship for those who often feel alone.
Some studies have shown how much these support animals increase the level of activity for their owners by encouraging them to seek additional mental help, improve their quality of life, and reduce chronic pains.
However, these studies are typically under criticism regarding whether they work or not.
Does Such Therapy Actually Work?
There are more than 200,000 emotional support animals that have been registered with the National Service Animal Registry. Any pet can be a support animal, and this includes snakes, ducks, rabbits, ferrets, and more. The emotional support pets can also be any age.
The support animal should not, however, create a nuisance in public, and they should reduce symptoms that are connected to or associated with the owners’ mental or emotional disability.
The owners of these animals believe that they do have a healing effect. Studies, like those published in the International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, state that the research done on emotional support animals relies heavily on patient reports, and those can be biased.