The History of Pet Therapy at Latham
Pet Therapy at Latham started in 2008 with Donkey Therapy, and has grown to include vocational/volunteer opportunities and Pet Sitting/Dog Walking.
Asinotherapy is a fancy word for “Donkey Therapy.” Our history with this unorthodox approach to animal therapy began in 2008 when Dr. Janice Forster, a renowned neuro-psychiatrist and expert in Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) treatment, visited with Latham and encouraged us to consider developing an Asinotherapy Program for our students and adult individuals with PWS. A treatment program using miniature donkeys had been developed in Germany and had been extremely successful in helping individuals with developmental disabilities learn important skills, including relationship-building and vocational training.
The students and adults must first earn the trust in order for the animals to allow any humans near them. Earning their trust means being gentle, being reliable and letting the donkeys know that our individuals are there to help them.
In 2009, Latham purchased a residential home in East Sandwich with grounds approved for the boarding of livestock. This opened the door for us to begin developing our Asinotherapy Program. With Dr. Forster’s guidance, we quickly learned that miniature donkeys were ideally suited for interacting with our PWS individuals. Temperamentally, they are known for their good nature, they crave attention and are very patient. A gentle, but at times stubborn personality is commonly recognized between donkeys and individuals with PWS. This mirroring provides many opportunities for learning, nurturing and building trust and self-esteem while teaching empathy, responsibility and appropriate boundaries.
Since 2009, Latham has trained dozens of our staff and adult residents with PWS in the Asinotherapy Program. Starting with merely two donkeys, Latham Centers is proud to have six donkeys – Angus, Moonbeam, Jake, Curly, Esau and Esther.
After noticing the success of the Asinotherapy program, as well as the success of other Pet Therapy programs such as Companion Animal Program (CAP), which offers pet training opportunities Latham Centers decided to explore other pet related opportunities.
After a focus group including, but not limited to veterinarians, lawyers, pet owners and doctors, it became clear that there was a need for a reliable, affordable pet care program. Latham Lifelong Pet Care was born out of the need for varying Community Pet supports, as well as the need for more paid, vocational and training opportunities, which offer therapeutic benefits to individuals with special needs.