Eckert soon came to realize that, if Betsy was able to help her get through the ordeal of losing her mother, the rabbit had the ability to help others in need of emotional support as well.
The difference between therapy and support animals
That was when Eckert decided to make Betsy, who is now 3 years old, a therapy animal. The volunteer department of Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, where Eckert worked at the time, directed her to the Pet Partners volunteer therapy animal program, the largest nonprofit organization for registered therapy animals in the U.S., to help get Betsy certified, which can happen in as quickly as a month, according to Eckert. Therapy animals are known to provide numerous benefits, from decreasing mental stress to increasing positive social behaviors for autistic children.
Through Pet Partners, any pet is eligible to become a registered therapy animal, as long as the animal is one of nine species: dogs, horses, cats, rabbits, birds, llamas, alpacas, pigs and rats, according to Mandy Pleshaw, a marketing, public relations and social media coordinator at Pet Partners.