A bed-and-breakfast in the Finger Lakes region of New York has cows who give animal therapy to help people feel calm.
Three-year-old Bella and 2-year-old Bonnie are highlander-angus crossbred cows that offer therapy at the 33-acre Mountain Horse Farm, the New York Times reports. Suzanne Vullers, a former accountant who is now an equine therapist, co-owns the bed-and-breakfast with her husband, former supply chain manager Rudi Vullers.
The practice is called cow cuddling. It encourages people to brush, pet, or talk to cows to destress. It’s similar to equine therapy, the NY Times points out, except that horses typically stand whilst cows sometimes lie on the grass, inviting hugs.
Bella and Bonnie, who are not being raised for meat or dairy production, were chosen for the job, in part, because of their gentle personalities. The animal therapy lasts for one hour and the cows complete a maximum of two a day. “It’s not petting zoo,” Mr. Vullers said to the NY Times. “These girls get to live a natural life,” Ms. Vullers added.
Every session is supervised by a handler, to monitor the other animals in the field, and an equine therapist, to ensure the therapy animals are having a positive experience, too. The people engaging in the cow cuddling therapy are shown how to approach and interact with the animals as to not startle them or cause any discomfort. They’re also warned that they might be slobbered on.
“Respect them and their world and what they want to do and what they want to give you,” Ms. Vullers said about the therapy cows.
Animal therapy has been known to include animals like horses, birds, dogs, cats, and pigs.
Psychology Today highlighted a meta-analysis of 49 studies on animal-assisted therapy which concluded that the practice results in the improved emotional wellbeing of people with autism, behavioral problems, or medical conditions. A separate review found that it can help those diagnosed with depression, addiction, or schizophrenia.
A prison in Kent, England, introduced an animal therapy program that allowed inmates to pet and feed goats as part of their rehabilitation. The initiative was offered to people in HMP Swaleside’s Personality Disorder Unit in an effort to promote “positive social activity.”