Despite the hype and mystique, the claims that dolphin therapy can cure neurological conditions are unfounded. Furthermore participating in dolphin therapy carries risks to both the animal and human participants. An increasing body of evidence indicates that any improvements observed in a dolphin therapy patient’s condition are due to other factors and that claims of bio-energy force fields and mind-altering high frequency sounds are wholly unfounded.
Dolphin therapy, or dolphin-assisted-therapy, claims that regular swimming and interaction with dolphins will treat and/or cure patients suffering from a wide range of mostly-neurological disorders. Down’s syndrome and autism are frequent targets of dolphin-therapy advertisements, but the therapy is also claimed to offer benefits for people suffering from AIDS, epilepsy, deafness, and coma. To appreciate the tone given to these claims, all one need do is to visit one of the many dolphin therapy advertising websites. There the prospective buyer is assured that their therapy sessions will re-activate 144 sub-harmonics in etheric DNA structures, thus allowing completion of a “soul matrix” and “celestial consciousness”.
Research into dolphin therapy indicates that these claims are unfounded. To begin with, simply being in a tank of dolphins does not actually imply much interaction with the animals. One German study found that dolphins largely ignored the handicapped children that visited them for therapy.
The claims that the high-pitched chatter of communicating dolphins creates brain-healing results are also contradicted by investigative research. Multiple studies that have replicated dolphin therapy have found no significant evidence to support the health claims. Furthermore it was found that patients received hardly any exposure to dolphin chatter during their therapy sessions. On average dolphins only communicated between each other for an average of ten seconds per session.
What evidence does exist to substantiate the claims of dolphin therapy fall into two general categories: personal anecdote and poorly-designed studies conducted by the very people that stand to financially gain from legitimizing dolphin therapy. Upon scrutinizing even the peer-reviewed publications that tout the benefits of dolphin therapy, third-party observers have noted that these studies were set-up for success.
Yes, there are reports of children having sudden improvement in their behavior and cognitive function after participating in dolphin therapy. However researchers also indicate that this is more than likely due to being relieved of their day-to-day strains, regular relaxation in a warm climate, sudden exposure to a conscientious and supportive staff, and/or the placebo effect. Such explanations seem far more plausible than “a Guardian Raceline in the Gaia Realm”.
It is also important to realize that swimming with dolphins also carries some very real risks. Just this last week, a 9-year-old girl was bitten by a dolphin at sea world while attempting to pet the animal. Dolphins have been known to bite, slap, and ram the subjects of their therapy sessions. Dolphins also harbor a number of different skin disease that can be passed to humans upon contact.
Finally, dolphin therapy necessitates either the capture of dolphins from the wild or captive breeding programs. Capturing dolphins is both a traumatic experience for the animal and often leads to physical injury. Once captive, dolphins may be subject to poor living conditions that ignore or are exempt from animal welfare regulations. Therefore for ethical reasons alone one might argue against the continued practice of dolphin therapy.
While it may be tempting to seek for a magical cure by spending time with one of nature’s most charismatic species, the claims upon which dolphin therapy relies remain unfounded. Furthermore the risk of injury both to the animal and to the human subject ought to more than dissuade the public from continuing to support this practice.
By Sarah Takushi
World Society for the Protection of Animals
OnMega Dolphin Therapy
Texas Injury Law Blog
Cosmic Dolphin Magic