SYDNEY, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — An Australian hospital has used alpacas as “animal therapy,” with the wooly guests proving to be a welcome distraction for patients and staff alike.
Ed Sheeren and Pancake, two alpacas from a nearby farm, visit the Beaudesert Hospital in Queensland state once a month to assist in the recovery and wellbeing of patients, a program which organizers describe as a big success.
“Visits from any therapy animals are uplifting for the patients, it boosts their spirits and gives them a smile,” nursing and midwifery director Jacqueline Smith told Xinhua.
Smith described the duo as delightful to interact with and says that despite what some may think, the animals are very clean and don’t bite or spit.
“The alpacas who come to see us love people and love to be patted,” Smith said.
“They feel woolly but softer than a sheep and much cleaner, but it is the hilarious noises they make – like a loud hum – when they are talking to each other that has our patients smiling.”
Evidence around animal assisted therapy shows that it reduces anxiety and lowers blood pressure, stimulates cognitive functioning and motivates patients with wellness.
Originally it was a patient that clued staff into the possibility of the visits, and Smith says that now the alpacas know exactly where to go and stride through the corridors with confidence.
“Because the alpacas are such a surprise to see in a hospital setting, it is wonderful to watch the expressions on the faces of our patients, their families and also our staff,” Smith said.
“It really is the most amazing and diversional experience for all of us.”