(KCBS) – There are two special therapy programs using animals to help ailing adults and kids with learning disabilities.

KCBS’ Jeff Bell talks to Dr. Jack Aldridge, Director of Veterinary Services at The San Francisco SPCA, about Animal Assisted Therapy and Puppy Dog Tales.

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Animal Assisted Therapy is an amazing program that reaches over 60,000 people a year. We know through documented research that interaction with animals improves people’s physical, mental and emotional health. This kind of interaction is especially therapeutic in situations where people have limited access so a lot of the focus is on nursing homes, senior centers, hospitals and such.

Puppy Dog Tales is a very special program to help kids learn to read. In this program, students read out loud to a dog and its handler, who visit them on a regular basis at school or at a library. For some of these kids, English is a second or even third language. Others have learning disabilities, are held back by shyness or anxiety, or are otherwise considered “at risk” in the school system. At the San Francisco SPCA we recently completed a study of the program measuring the progress of 60 children overall—30 who read with the dogs each week for 10 weeks, and 30 others who practiced reading without a dog’s help. The experimental group improved by over 31 words per minute in oral fluency, versus 9 words per minute for the control group.

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There are about 100 animal-guardian teams comprised primarily of dogs, but we have at least one cat and one bird as well. Get in touch with us if you think your pet might be well suited to become a therapy animal – it really does make a difference in people’s lives.

Animal Update airs on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM on Sundays at 1:35 p.m., 3:35 p.m., and 9:21 p.m.

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