Animal Therapy Statistics

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The Zebra

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Key statistics + insights

  • 74% of pet owners believe their mental health improved after getting a pet
  • 75% of dog owners in the US take their canine companions along for rides and adventures
  • 70% of house cats are allowed to nap on furniture


Does animal-assisted therapy work?

Pet therapy involves much more than assistance dogs for the blind. Animal-assisted therapy, or AAT, as it's formally called, was developed in the 1960s, but the concept had been around for decades. Sigmund Freud actually used his dog in his clinical practice with his psychotherapy patients to help them feel at ease. However, it was with Dr. Boris Levinson that the first formal research involving animal therapy began. Dr. Levinson found that his dog had a positive effect on mentally impaired young patients. Today, we recognize that therapy animals can help lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension and reduce anxiety with those in the hospital. 

From recognized research centers as UCLA Heath, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, the following is a collection of the most up-to-date and relevant pet therapy statistics. The Zebra, as the nation's leading insurance provider, also offers a look at how owning a therapy animal can affect your pet insurance


Table of contents

  1. Animal therapy
  2. Pet therapy statistics
  3. Service dog facts
  4. Animal therapy and the use of psychology
  5. Autism animal-assisted therapy
  6. Animal therapy and pet insurance
  7. FAQs about animal therapy


Animal therapy

In August 2021, more than a year into the global COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at The Zebra were curious about the effect of pet ownership on the mental health of the average American. Since reports show that 20% of households have acquired at least one pet during the start of the pandemic, The Zebra wanted to know whether Americans believe owning a pet would improve, lower or leave their mental health unaffected. The results of this survey sent to 1500 respondents are:

  • 46.9% of respondents believe that owning a pet would improve their mental health.
  • 3.7% reported lower mental health.
  • 9.9% of respondents believe pet ownership would not affect their mental health.
How would owning a pet affect your mental health_.png


Animal-assisted therapy statistics

According to UCLA Health, Medical News Day, Mental Health America, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information:

  • Animal interaction releases powerful hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin that help us relax and lower our blood pressure.
  • Patients with total joint replacement needed 50% less pain medication with canine therapy.
  • 85 million American families have pets.
  • Dog owners spend between $400-$700 yearly on food, supplies, training, and medical care for their dogs
  • College students who spent just 10 minutes enjoyed reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Over 60% of US colleges have a pet therapy program.

Statistics about therapy dogs

Based on reports from Assistance Dogs International, PetPedia, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and the American Kennel Club:

  • Approximately 200,000 dogs are trained and work as service animals.
  • It takes roughly 18 months to train a service dog.
  • Over 10,000 people in Europe use an assistance dog.
  • There are an estimated 500,000 service dogs in the United States.
  • On average, dog owners walk at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) a week, which can lead to positive effects on your heart.
  • 50% to 70% of dogs in training through a service training organization do not successfully become registered service dogs.

Animal therapy and psychology

For more information, review the full reports from Psychology Today, SAGE Journals, and Alliance of Therapy Pets, and the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute.

  • Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals into the treatment,
  • Owning a dog has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease by 36%.
  • 60% of hospice care providers that provide alternative therapies include pet therapy to patients.
  • Animal therapy builds on a concept called the human-animal bond.
  • 66% of pet owners would have a more favorable view of their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.


Animal-assisted intervention with Autism spectrum disorder

According to the National Library of Medicine, Purdue University, and the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute:

  • In studies conducted to assess the effect of the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) to improve the lives of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, language and communication were evaluated in 43% of included studies. Among these, 75% reported significant improvements, while 25% did not.
  • In studies evaluating emotional display, 100% reported positive changes in emotional experience from AAI, including increased signals of positive emotion such as smiling assessed via behavioral observation.
  • Purdue University found that a classroom-based AAI resulted in a 54% increase in social behaviors for children with autism.
  • Purdue University also found a 43% reduction in a physiological indicator of anxious activation with animal therapy.
  • An eight-week study of 64 children with ASD by HABRI found that around guinea pigs, the children showed increased social behavior like talking and physical contact.


Pet therapy: how does it affect your pet insurance?

Pet insurance is one of the best ways to ensure your pet's health and wellness. Most pet insurance policy terms are 12 months and may include an annual limit to claims that are made. As with health insurance, there may be a waiting period after initial enrollment before the policy takes effect. Similar to when you sign up for a life insurance policy, underwriters consider a number of factors to establish the cost and type of coverage available to your pet. A therapy dog would need a commercial liability policy if you're operating a business.

In general, the following factors are most likely to affect your pet insurance premiums:

  • ZIP code: More densely populated areas tend to have higher rates, as do areas where care is more expensive, i.e., California.
  • Species: The species of pet you own can play a big part in what you pay. For instance, dogs are often more expensive to insure than cats or many other animals.
  • Breed: Different pet breeds can also affect your premiums, as some may be more prone to certain types of illness or other medical conditions.
  • Age: Older animals cost more to insure.

Looking to insure your therapy pet? Compare pet insurance rates with Embrace!


Frequently asked questions: pet therapy


Question: How effective is animal therapy?

Answer: According to the ACLU, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has been shown to reduce blood pressure as well as anxiety in patients. 

Q: What percentage of therapy animals are dogs?

A: According to Pet Partners (the largest therapy pet organization in operation),  94% of their therapy animals are dogs.

Q: How common is animal therapy?

A: The US Department of Health and Human Services released a report in 2011, finding that almost 60% of hospice care providers that provide complementary and alternative therapies offer pet therapy to patients.

Q: How many people use therapy animals?

A: According to Data USA, there are were 4.28 million people in the animal-assisted workforce. 



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This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in August 2021. 

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