Are Guinea Pigs Therapy Animals?Published April 6, 2012
That is the question at the heart of a Michigan-based lawsuit involving a 28-year-old student, Kendra Velzen, and Grand Valley State University in western Michigan. Velzen says she suffers from depression and a heart condition, and requires her guinea pig to help cope with the physical and emotional effects brought on by her conditions. She alleges that the university is violating her rights to use a service animal in the college setting because they denied her access to her guinea pig on campus.
The case examines two unique elements. First, it examines the fundamental differences between a therapy animal and a service animal. Therapy animals are animals that individuals can use for emotional support. Service animals, as their name suggests, actually conduct functions, such as providing sight and other alerts, to a person in need. Secondly, it examines whether or not guinea pigs are really valid therapy or service animals.
One worker involved with therapy animals, Casey Klotz of Intermountain Therapy Animals, said in a CBS report that of the 3,000 registered teams of therapy animals their organization has around the world, none of the animals are guinea pigs.
Having a guinea pig may be comforting to many, but does that actually qualify them to be therapy animals? In terms of being a service animal, it'd be difficult to see what essential function a guinea pig could provide to a human to allow them to have that distinction.
So we put the question out to you: do you think guinea pigs are actually valid therapy animals? Is Velzen's school infringing on her right to use a service animal? Share your thoughts in a comment!