It's well recognized that pets can have a beneficial effect on their owners. People with pets in their homes tend to be happier, have lower blood pressure and stress levels, and may even recover better after a heart attack than people who don't have pets. People who have the companionship of a pet tend to be less depressed and more active socially.
Animal-assisted therapy participants will bring their animals to nursing homes, hospitals, libraries and schools for those with developmental and learning disabilities and those with emotional and behavioural disorders. There are numerous programs available in Canada as well as in the US, Asia and the UK. By searching the web for animal assisted therapy, you can find which non-profit organization is located near you - one with experience with the disability affecting you or your family member.
Dogs, cats, and their and owners who participate in animal-assisted therapy undergo training and evaluation to ensure they are suited to a therapy program. The animals which are accepted for animal-assisted therapy are comfortable in new surroundings, are friendly with strangers and are docile in temperment. They are up to date with vaccinations and are assured to be in good health. The volunteer pet owners are also screened for suitability to participate in the program.