Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

Dolphin-assisted therapy? A bad idea!

Many dolphinaria operators now acknowledge that displaying dolphins for public entertainment is very questionable. However, by inventing “dolphin-assisted therapy” programmes they try to justify the abusive incarceration of animals in captivity so they can continue to increase their revenue.

Success stories of dolphin-assisted therapy raise hope among those who suffer from mental or physical disorders. When listening to the operators of dolphin-assisted therapy, you get the impression that almost any disease can be treated by the animals: depression, attention deficit disorder, Down syndrome, autism, chronic pain, stress, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, HIV/AIDS, anorexia, and many more.

As a result, people pay a high price to buy hope. A single half-hour dolphin-assisted therapy session costs a few hundred Swiss Francs, with such programmes often involving little more than just a splash around.

Efficacy and Side Effects

There is no scientific evidence proving a lasting effect of dolphin-assisted therapy. Positive effects involve the climate of holiday destinations where these programmes operate. People also move more easily in water and feel relief from pain, a phenomenon that is also witnessed in aquatic bodywork. The mere presence of animals is known to beneficial, too. However, this does not require the confinement of wild animals like dolphins. Domesticated animals like dogs or horses convey a sense of wellbeing just as well.

Little known is the fact that permanent stress can sometimes make captured dolphins react aggressively and ram people in the narrow basin. There is a high risk of disease transmission in the water. In contrast to therapies employing domesticated animals, for dolphin-assisted therapy there are neither rules nor standards with respect to hygiene, health and behavioural issues of the animals and/or the level of training of the therapists.

Captured and finished

The demand for dolphin-assisted therapy boosts the dolphinaria industry. Many of the captured animals employed to “heal” people once freely roamed the oceans. Brutally taken from the wild, they were torn away from their families. Their removal may have  jeopardised the survival of their entire dolphin populations. As a result of their capture living conditions in narrow, monotonous concrete pools or secluded bays, many dolphins fall ill and die prematurely.

It’s time to turn the tide! Every year, hundreds of thousands of dolphins are killed throughout the oceans and dolphin populations are critically endangered worldwide. We are not the ones who need the dolphins – the dolphins need us.

In the interest of humans and animals, OceanCare strongly advises against dolphin-assisted therapy. There are effective and reasonable alternatives available such as therapies with domesticated animals (e.g., dogs and horses).