ADDICTION RECOVERY WITH PETS ARE WONDERFUL SUPPORT (PAWS) IN LAS CRUCES
Many people intuitively believe that they and others derive health benefits from relationships with their animal companions, and numerous scientific studies performed over the past 25 years offer sound evidence for this belief. This type of relationship –Pets Are Wonderful Support-- has been well demonstrated with persons having chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS or PTSD. Among other benefits, animals have been demonstrated to improve human cardiovascular health, reduce stress, decrease loneliness and depression, and facilitate social interactions among people who enjoy pets. Increased exercise is a major advantage of pet ownership or companionship. Enhanced hormone levels of dopamine and endorphins associated with happiness and well-being and decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, may follow a quiet 30-minute session of interacting or exercising with a dog. Good brain hormones like oxytocin, associated with love and intimacy, may be released gazing into dog’s eyes or listening to the calming purring of a cat. Negative emotions like anxiety and negative actions like hostility tend to be less with persons around companion animals. Being responsible for another living being besides yourself could be considered skill building for people in treatment while engendering trust by bonding with another living being and giving and getting unconditional love. In addition to acting as social catalysts, service dogs provide obvious practical benefits such as alerting their owners to visual hazards, auditory warnings, and impending seizures; and assisting with mobility.
Your Recovery Solutions supporters recognize that PAWS strongly accepts and advocates for the deep bond between people and pets. We strive to ensure that clients do not experience the loss of pets due to financial hardship, lack of transportation, or hospitalization. We also do our best so that the expenses of caring for and keeping a pet do not jeopardize the health and well-being of our clients. Homeless pet owners that are attached to their pets often report that their relationships with their pets are their only true relationships, and most would not live in housing that would not allow pets. Many homeless persons may reject needed inpatient hospital or rehabilitation services because they have no way to take care of their companion pets in their absence. The Amador Health Center assists persons experiencing homelessness when they must be separated from their pets due to hospitalization or incarceration and also accepts donations for pet supplies/food to distribute to the most needy on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus. You may call/text the Amador Recovery Helpline at 575.395.6953 to volunteer or donate regarding PAWS. See map below to drop off pet supplies/food.
PROS & CONS OF THERAPY dOGS VS PET DOGS
These animals are available for short sessions with patients undergoing inpatient rehabilitation as part of a prescribed addiction treatment plan.
Volunteer owners with training and certification accompany the animal to the rehab facility.
These dogs undergo regular health checks and are clean and well-groomed during visits.
They offer recovering addicts a chance to spend time in a supervised setting without the full-time responsibility of caring for an animal.
People who are able to adopt and care for an animal of their own can consider getting a dog as a pet.
Pets provide around-the-clock companionship and unconditional love to people in recovery.
Individuals with a history of substance abuse and co-occurring mental health conditions can benefit from having a canine companion at home.
The ACTion and Safe Haven websites below are good resources to find locally available dogs for adoption.
Remember that it’s a long-term commitment that will require time, money, patience, love and understanding. You should see your new pet as you would see a new member of your family.
Be prepared for a thorough application process and possibly a home inspection (adoption policies and requirements vary by shelter).
Make sure you can afford it. While some shelters offer free adoptions on select days, others charge anywhere from $25–$300. Caring for the pet after the adoption will also cost (veterinary visits, food, toys, etc.).
Once you’re fully prepared, find a shelter near you to see what pets are available. You can start your search online or go directly to the shelter first. When you find “the one,” it won’t be long before you’ll turn a homeless pet into a member of your family.
How You Can Help Advance PAWS as the General Public?
Become a foster family. Occasionally, a client will need medical care and treatment in the hospital. When this happens, we need a few individuals willing to take a cat or a dog here and there for short amounts of time.
Donate gift cards and pet supplies for a pet pantry at a non-profit organization.
Deliver food and other pet-care supplies to our clients around the city/county.
Provide transportation round-trip for our clients and their pet to visit the vet or groomer. Must provide valid driver's license and current liability and collision insurance.
How You Can Help Advance PAWS as a Local Provider?
Consider “prescribing” an appropriate animal support or pet assisted therapy for patients who desire an animal and may safely benefit from it.
Provide support for individuals who seek your help in documenting a disability for the purpose of obtaining a service dog or for emotional support.
Develop a list of resources focused on maintaining the health and well-being of companion animals, including local veterinarians, animal behaviorists and trainers, groomers and food banks.
Provide referrals to organizations in your area that assist in pet care for people with serious illnesses, and to organizations providing care for pets in case a patient requires hospitalization or dies.
Consider adding a question about pet ownership to your patient registration forms. Not only will you gain insight into your patients’ environment and family structure, the information you gather may prove crucial for future studies concerning the health benefits of animal companionship.
Have a cat condo or fish aquarium in your clinic waiting room. Sponsor a pet adoption day in your facility.
Have a negotiated sliding fee scale for low-income persons with pets referred to vet care from a local non-profit serving special populations.
Make sure that members of your staff are familiar with the information on this topic and where they can become more comfortable and competent with this supportive service for clients/patients.
Finally, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) consists of spending designated amounts of time with therapy pets during rehabilitation. The animals – in most cases mature dogs or horses – are carefully selected, trained and socialized. They then become your loving and supportive companions throughout each stage of your treatment. AAT is provided by a licensed counselor. This person works in close contact with your addiction therapist, learning more about the lessons you might need to learn and then developing a program that’s made just for you. In each session, the counselor outlines what you’ll need to do, and then stays with you throughout the entire session as you perform the task. You may find out more about the ways AAT can help addiction recovery by clicking HERE.
Map for Amador Health Center, Annex Suite D at 999 W. Amador Ave., Las Cruces, NM 88005