HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – Suffolk County lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal by Presiding Officer Rob Calarco to designate April 30 as “Pet Therapy Day” in Suffolk County.
To mark the passage of the proposal, Presiding Officer Calarco on April 23 joined Smithtown-based Therapy Dogs of Long Island during the nonprofit’s visit to Fort Salonga Elementary School, where the Presiding Officer and the nonprofit spent the morning with students and a four-legged friend named Ken.
April 30 has been recognized nationally as a day to celebrate therapy animals through the efforts of Pet Partners, the nation’s leading organization registering therapy animals for animal-assisted interventions. Presiding Officer Calarco felt it was important to mark the day on the county level to recognize the local groups working to improve the health and well-being of Suffolk residents through animal-assisted therapy and activities. Legislators approved his resolution to designate Pet Therapy Day in Suffolk County at the legislature’s April 20, 2021 General Meeting.
“Therapy animals and their human companions bring joy and healing to people of all ages in many different settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools and funeral parlors,” said Presiding Officer Calarco. “Designating April 30 as Pet Therapy Day is our way of saying thank you and recognizing all the good these animals and their handlers do to bring moments of joy to people in need in our community, especially given the difficulties of the last year.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, the term pet therapy encompasses both animal-assisted therapy and more casual animal-assisted activities. In animal-assisted therapy, dogs and other animals are used to help people recover from or cope with physical conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, or mental health conditions, such as stress, anxiety and depression. Therapy animals and their handlers can be found visiting schools, hospitals, pediatric care units, airports, the court systems, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities as well as libraries and psychiatrist/psychologist offices.
“The health and emotional benefits of pet therapy are well documented and I am grateful for the comfort and healing these animals and their handlers bring to our communities,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn, a co-sponsor of the resolution to designate Pet Therapy Day in Suffolk County. “Sometimes nothing warms the soul more than a loving wet nose and some slobber.”
Legislator Sarah Anker, who also co-sponsored the resolution, added, “I am happy to co-sponsor designating April 30th as Pet Therapy Day here in Suffolk County. This year has brought many challenges to our community and our residents, including learning how to cope through the pandemic. Therapy pets have helped improve the mental health and well-being of many residents, so it was important to acknowledge and thank all of Suffolk County’s therapy animals and their handlers for their service to our residents, especially during these challenging times.”
According to Pet Partners, growing evidence supports the idea that the human-animal bond has a positive impact on wellness. Thousands of pet therapy teams serve communities across the country.
“There is something special about the unconditional love of a dog, and having brought therapy dogs to visit groups and individuals across Long Island for a number of years now, I have witnessed how these animals bring happiness and healing to the people around them,” said Terry Gallogly, Executive Director of Therapy Dogs of Long Island. “I am so excited that there is now an official day in Suffolk County to recognize the uplifting impact therapy animals have in our communities. Thank you to Presiding Officer Rob Calarco for helping spread awareness about the important role therapy animals play in treating physical and mental conditions and – quite often – changing lives.”
Caption for photo: Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco joins Therapy Dogs of Long Island and four-legged friend Ken to visit students at Fort Salonga Elementary School to mark the legislature’s designation of April 30 as Pet Therapy Day in Suffolk County.