HELPING BOSTON HEAL: American Humane Association Mobilizes Famed Therapy Dog Team Offering Comfort at Bombing Site and Other Locations for Children, Families, Mourners

Apr 24, 2013, 14:50 ET from American Humane Association

BOSTON, April 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One week  after the terror attacks and manhunt in and around Boston, the psychological and emotional trauma is still being felt by so many, especially children. To help the healing begin, American Humane Association has mobilized its famed Red Star™ animal-assisted therapy dogs, who are being readied to provide comfort and restore a sense of normalcy to the stricken city. These highly-trained animals interact in a nonverbal, nonthreatening and calming manner, providing a sense of connection to children and people of all ages coping with anxiety and sadness.


American Humane Association is offering comfort and assistance to children, students, families and anyone who is coming to pay homage at the bombsite and other key locations around the city of Boston. American Humane Association's director of animal-assisted therapy Amy McCullough and her golden lab Bailey will be working at the bomb site/Marathon finish line on Boyleston Street today from 2-4 pm and other times today and during the week (please call for times). The team is also arranging sessions with local university students and other local groups.   

"Animal-assisted therapy teams are powerful tools for healing," says American Humane Association President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. "We know this therapy is very effective in helping to release anxiety and we want to do all we can to help the people of Boston as they heal from this catastrophe."

The 136-year-old humanitarian organization is the only national charity working to ensure the welfare, wellness and well-being of both children and animals, and strives to unleash the full potential of the bond between humans and animals for the mutual benefit of both.  American Humane Association has been a pioneer in the use of animal-assisted therapy, employing it to aid children with cancer, military families coping with the impacts of service, and those who have traumatized following disasters, natural and manmade. 

The organization is also offering the following tips for parents and other caregivers in Boston and nationwide to help children cope with the fear and uncertainty caused by this tragedy:

  • Keep an eye on children's emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
  • Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.
  • Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details.
  • Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.
  • Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them.  Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.
  • Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
  • If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.

About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country's first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we're also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at today.

SOURCE American Humane Association