MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Madison County is joining the nation in recognizing April 30th as National Therapy Animal Day.

Research has shown domestic animals have the potential to increase a person’s dopamine, serotonin, and other “feel good” chemicals the brain releases that improve moods and affect happiness.

Mimi Bynum with ‘Heart to Heart Pet Partners, Inc.’ knows all about working and training therapy animals to help contribute to the health and well-being of patients in need.

Pet Partners is an international organization that registers, educates and evaluates therapy animals. Heart to Heart is an umbrella under Pet Partners.

“We would make visits and see interesting things happen,” said Bynum. “Like visit a child that had a tonsillectomy and as we left the room the child said to the mom ‘”‘Mama, my throat doesn’t hurt anymore.’ Or visit a patient who was deep in Alzheimer’s and so that calm mask, as soon as he touched the cat, his eyes brightened and he smiled.”

Pet Partners registers nine species of therapy animals ranging from the more traditional dogs, cats, and rabbits to rats, llamas, and alpacas. Each provides its own version of calming, relaxing therapy.

“They find there’s less disruptive behavior when there are regular visits from a therapy animal. So when they’re looking at the neurotransmitter effect it explains why people feel comfortable. They feel less pain, they feel safer. It’s just a wonderful addition to a lot of therapeutic avenues.”

Special training helps therapy animals not only provide greater care for patients but also help them learn how to adapt to different environments. Animals might help personal owners or visit larger crowds in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, etc.

Dogs and cats are the most common type of therapy animals. However, each animal must still go through a series of training.