Studies suggest that pets can be a significant source of comfort for the ill, the elderly, and the very young. If nothing else, animals provide a sense of normalcy in what otherwise might be a frightening or a depressing situation.
Researchers have found that the presence of a friendly dog helps put children at ease in unfamiliar surroundings as indicated by a slight decrease in their blood pressure. Further, pets have been effectively used to allay the fears of children undergoing psychotherapy and of nursing home residents.
Pet therapy reinforces what many people want to believe anyway - that pets are intrinsically good for people. If walking your dog makes you happy, or you love coming home to your cat, the health benefits are self-explanatory.
No scientific studies are necessary. As one researcher in the veterinary field has written, "pets are active members of human social systems". The benefits they bring to normal life at home may be translated into therapy for those whose normal life has been interrupted.