Paws for Mental Health coming Saturday, Oct. 29

Pets are shown to be a benefit to mental health (Dusty Sorrentino/Facebook)

CULLMAN, Ala. – WellStone invites the community, including canine companions, to Paws for Mental Health at Heritage Park Saturday, Oct. 29, from 2-4 p.m. The free event will include treats for canine attendees, a mini parade, Halloween photo backdrop for fun pictures with pets and a costume contest for a $5 entry fee. Vendors and organizations throughout the community will be on-hand, including the Cullman Police Department’s K-9 Unit. 

“We wanted to celebrate one of the best tools used in treating people with mental illness: pets. Pets play a major role as a coping tool for people experiencing mental health issues and crises,” said Zackery Moore, of WellStone’s Mobile Crisis Team. 

The National Institute of Health reports that caring for pets has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and lower blood pressure. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone, the fight or flight hormone. Interactions with animals reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, increase feelings of happiness and increase feelings of support. 

Melodie Parsons, LICSW, outreach coordinator at WellStone, shared, “Paws for Mental Health is about sharing with individuals the benefits of having a pet and supporting their mental health journey.  The mental health journey does not end after taking medication or going to therapy, the individual has to continue on with the daily routines of life.  A paw companion supports individuals in these daily routines of life.  We are looking forward to seeing everyone come on out and join in the parade.” 

While support or therapy pets have many benefits to their owners, they do not have the same rights as service animals that receive specialized training for specific tasks and appropriate responses to particular situations. Service animals hold special rights under the law to ensure their owners are allowed to always have them by their sides. This is not the case with support pets. 

Event organizers request that all dogs attending Paws for Mental Health are leashed and respectful of other dogs’ and dog owners’ boundaries. 

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