By Debbie Cassidy
Hoegger Farm Yard
I love my goats. They always make me smile. I am a registered nurse and sometimes my days can be a little stressful. One little therapy doeling really brightens my days. Her name is Baby. Baby is a Fainting goat. Every time I look at her she brings a smile to my face. This got me to thinking: I could get the best of both worlds by starting a therapy program using my goats.
So what is a therapy goat? A therapy goat is like any other therapy animal. A therapy animal is an animal trained to provide affection and comfort to people. They are often used in hospitals, assisted living homes, nursing homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, hospices and others areas to help improve their well-being. Therapy animals are NOT required to be certified.
Research indicates that interaction with therapy animals can temporarily affect the release of various neurotransmitters in the brain; levels of oxytocin (linked with bonding) and dopamine (involved in the reward-motivation system) are increased, while cortisol levels (an immunosuppressant associated with stress) are decreased. All of which are very beneficial to the patients. If Baby makes me smile I figured she could make others smile too!
A Therapy animal is different than a service animal. Service animals perform tasks for people with disabilities and have a legal right to accompany their owners into almost any area they need to go. In the United States, service animals are legally protected at the federal level by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Therapy animals are not trained to assist specific individuals and do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Just about any breed of goat can be trained as a therapy goat. I raise Fainting Goats at my farm in East Texas. We call our farm “Playful Acres”. They are all registered with the American Fainting Goat Organization, who strongly believes the Fainting goat breed is a multi-purpose breed. Therapy goats need to be friendly and enjoy human contact. They should be well behaved in public. For a goat to be used as a therapy animal it is best to use either polled or disbudded goats. You must be careful with horned goats. Also, wethers and does make the best therapy goats, because you don’t have to worry about their smell during rut like you would with the bucks.
I am currently working with several different goats in my therapy program. Rio is a therapy goat that is already trained and ready to go to work. He really loves kids so most of his work will be spent working at schools, and maybe making a few visits to the public libraries during the summer when the children have their reading programs.
Rio attended the last Ag Day. There were 400 4th graders and Rio loved every one of them! He did a great job of letting them pet him and many of them gave him a hug. Some of these children had never seen a goat.
By the end of the day many students had decided that they wanted a goat for a pet. It was a great learning experience for all.
Checkers is another goat that loves people. He is horned so care has to be given when using him. He is a small boy and everyone loves his long hair.
Baby is in training to be a therapy goat. She has been disbudded. Baby is a bottle baby and is very friendly. She loves attention and people.