Student-professor duo starts Animal Therapy Club

Clare McPherson

A club focused on researching animal-human relationships was started this semester after an Appalachian State University student approached her professor with questions about equine therapy.

The Animal Therapy Club was started by Nina Rhoades, a junior social work major, and Maureen Macnamara, an assistant social work professor. Although the club has not yet gained official recognition by the university, it held its first meeting approximately two weeks ago.

Rhoades hopes the club will do a variety of things such as volunteer with the Watauga Humane Society and attend conferences.

“We want to learn about animal behavior, but then we can find ways to apply that,” Rhoades said. “It’s kind of like a hands-on research club.”

Macnamara believes the club will help better prepare social work students, who are specializing in animal therapy, for their future careers.

“If people are interested in issues about the role that animals have in human lives and how they can be important I think [the club] will be good,” Macnamara said. “Part of the animal therapy club is to get people involved as students because [they] really need to get working on it now,  especially if they don’t have a lot of experience working with animals that are not just their pets.”

Rhoades said the goal of the club now is to find out how humans and animals interact. She hopes club members will be able to volunteer with animals and learn more about their behavior so they can learn ways to apply that in the real world.

“We want to do stuff [that involves] how can people use the pet they already have to help them,” Rhoades said. “A lot of animal therapy now is just the animal is there, it’s cute, you can pet it, it lowers your blood sugar, it’s there for comfort. We want to find different ways that are a little more constructive.”

Concerning its unofficial club status, the group will need a consistent attendance of at least 10 members before it is officially recognized.

“Everybody loves animals, and I thought it would be a great way for people to get in touch with them,” Rhoades said. “I just want people to come to the meetings because the better we can make the club.”

Story: Clare McPherson, Intern News Reporter