H.A.B.I.T. is an animal-assisted interaction program that sponsors community programs for those of all ages, in a variety of settings, such as nursing and retirement homes, retirement, assisted living centers, hospitals, mental health facilities, physical rehabilitation centers, and child and family services centers. Animal-assisted interaction provides an opportunity to create relationships between animals and people that assist in creating better mental and physical wellbeing. Animals also provide learning assistance, for children with and without learning disabilities ( only 20 percent of our work is with LD kids). This program began in 1986 and has two faculty involved part-time and four additional staff and faculty members, as well as three volunteers and two students.
Community partners include 100 school programs, 81 visitation facilities (H.A.B.I.T. programs involve nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement centers, mental health centers, Cancer Treatment Centers, schools, hospitals and many others), private veterinary practitioners, and 300 community volunteers. University of Tennessee partners include the Institute of Agriculture’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the Veterinary Medical Center, the Dog Bite Prevention in Children program, The Companion Animal Initiative in Tennessee (CAIT), Veterinary Social Work, the College of Veterinary Medicine Public Health, the College of Social Work, the School of Information Sciences, and the College of Law.
Impact on UT
Student volunteers gain first-hand experience with the needs and struggles of the aged, the sick, and young people with learning issues. H.A.B.I.T has a direct impact on the student communities at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the UT Institute of Agriculture when H.A.B.I.T volunteers and dogs arrive on campus to reduce student stress time at various UT-sponsored events, including final exam and move-in periods. An emerging academic and scholarship opportunity was recently created when UT faculty applied research on H.A.B.I.T benefits to children’s cancer wards, in an effort to determine if this interaction improved physiologic parameters of stress and therefore contributed to better health outcomes.
H.A.B.I.T volunteers make over 200,000 contacts annually. The impact on individuals in the community occurs with every animal-to-person interaction that brings support, elevated spirits, comfort, a sense of worth and encouragement, or a general strengthening of spirit. The impact can be summed up in a quote from a recreation therapist: “The special bond between animal and patient yields emotional strengthening that many more conventional therapeutic interventions cannot provide.”
See Related Story: Meeting Community Needs with Animal Friendship>>
H.A.B.I.T. Office 974-5633
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