Pet-Assisted Therapy Offers Positive Interactions at Juvenile Hall

Oh, happy Monday, you guys. Hi my name is Denise Davidson. I’m with the San Diego Humane Society and we’re here for our
monthly visit at juvenile hall with our animals to visit the kids. You don’t have
to pet them if you don’t want to. If you have a rat on your shoulder, they might
pee or poop on you. So, the first time I came here was a bit intimidating. I’m not
used to gates closing. I never felt threatened and the main issue is to
focus on the animals, and the kids focus on the animals. Sometimes they’ll bring
in pet rats and the the kids will get very scared but after a few minutes
they kind of simmer down and start petting it. And next thing you know, they’re holding it. It’s a good experience. Some of the kids have never seen a guinea pig, some of the kids have
never fed a rabbit. We bring vegetables with us and they’re able to hand-feed them.
You want a rat? Okay. The whole atmosphere shifts when we walk into the room. At first,
they’re all kind of excited. But then, once you tell the kids that if you’re
calm with the animal, the animal is going to be calm with you, and it really
just brings everything down to kind of a quiet, and kind of an easy environment.
It’s not tense, it’s not stressful. So, what’s your favorite animal?
You can tell even the kids that act tough or are here on serious charges,
really can bond with an animal and really take something, you know, that’s
unpleasant by being here and turning it into a pleasant experience. Did you want to
try and give her something? It’s joy. Their faces light up, they smile. Then
they’re all so voicerous and they’re like oh I want to pet the dog. You guys have rats, don’t get
the rat near me. I want the guinea pig. Some of the youth here have never had
pets at home. Sometimes it’s their first interaction, even with a dog and so you
can just kind of see them be scared of an animal and then within a few minutes
they’re holding a pet and their eyes are lighting up. You want me to see if I could get you some food for her? You hear some really great stories and you hear some heartbreaking stories but
you always see their eyes when they light up and they see a dog that they
haven’t been able to touch, or pet a rabbit that they didn’t know existed
that you could have as a pet or see a guinea pig and feed them cilantro. So
it’s really amazing that way. That’s the sweetness in it.

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