Therapy animals help stressed out students at University of Utah

Posted at 9:58 PM, May 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-01 23:58:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Therapy animals are sometimes found in hospitals and nursing homes, but this week they and their handlers offered their services to stressed out students at the University of Utah.

Deborah Carr, executive director for Therapy Animals of Utah, said it’s a service they are happy to provide.

“We are here to provide the college students with some stress relief because we all remember what it was like in those days just before finals,” Carr said.

Carr said the presence of the animals helps relieve stress.

“Their brains start secreting oxytocin, and their blood pressure comes down, their heart rate comes down, their stress levels come down,” she said.

Therapy Animals of Utah has a long history of bringing furry friends like Mr. Parker to those in need.

“I had one lady go, 'I don’t know what he did, but I don't hurt anymore,’” Carr said.

The non-profit doesn't charge any money, but you can tip Mr. Parker with Cheerios.

“We have to give them a bath and groom them, and drive them to their appointments, but then we just sit back and watch them do the magic that they can do,” Carr said.

In addition to providing a distraction for the stressed out, there's also the hope that some of these students will remember this experience if they become health care professionals.

“We've been working for the last 40 years trying to teach health professionals, 'No these are not dirty disease carriers, these are health benefits that you can bring to your patients,’” Carr said.

Therapy Animals of Utah makes regular visits to nursing homes, hospitals, veterans’ centers and schools for those on the Autism spectrum.

For more information about the group, visit their website.