Physicians "Prescribing" Pets?
Call me a grinch but articles like this one about physicians prescribing pets for their patients doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling. I most certainly recognize the benefits healthy, well-behaved animals can have on human physical and mental well-being. But I also know that finding a pet who already possesses those qualities or ensuring them in a pet lacking them takes a lot more time, effort, and commitment than picking up a prescription at a pharmacy. And because I spend many hours each week working with normally healthy people whose pets' behavioral and medical problems have left them feeling tired, frustrated, angry, frightened, or depressed as well as those who were physically or emotionally fragile before they bought or adopted the problematic animal, I prefer a more preventive approach.
While I applaud the human medical and behavioral communities for recognizing the value of the bond for human well-being, animals aren't drugs. On second thought, perhaps in some ways they are in that it's necessary to pay attention to the source. Just as physicians prescribe drugs, the actions and sources of which they trust to behave as expected, so they should prescribe animals. If they wouldn't suggest that their patients get their drugs from unknown sources with unknown histories, then perhaps they should think twice about take a one-size-fits-all approach to animals who are far more complex and have far more side-effects than any drug.