Swimming with the dolphins has become a popular new therapy, but conservationists say it’s not doing dolphins any good and psychologists say that, despite earlier reports, it doesn’t do people any good, either.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is today calling for a total ban on Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT), stating that the therapy provided is ineffective and potentially harmful to both people and animals. DAT is a controversial therapy that involves close interaction with dolphins, usually through swimming with these animals in captivity or in their natural environment, and is promoted as a treatment or respite from illness and disability. It’s often used to treat depression and autism.

The WDCS has called for a total ban on DAT after researching the therapy and discovering that there is no scientific evidence to prove that the therapy is effective, there are no official standards or regulation governing the industry, Dolphins are removed from the wild to stock the growing number of DAT facilities, with both serious conservation and welfare implications for the animals, both people and animals can be exposed to infection and injury when participating in DAT, and DAT is extremely costly despite the lack of evidence of its success and there are other therapies available that are both cheaper and easier.

The process of removing dolphins from the wild is incredibly stressful to dolphins, involving their being “rounded up” by boats or trapped by nets. Many dolphins die as a result of the experience, and those that are later transferred to other facilities still have a shorter life expectancy.

Conservationist Cathy Williamson says, “This therapy involves vulnerable people and also exploits the dolphins, which are forced to interact with people in conditions that are far from suitable for wild animals. We know that keeping dolphins in captivity has serious welfare implications for these animals, including a shorter life expectancy than in the wild, and we are saddened that the growing DAT industry is causing more and more animals to be subjected to a life in captivity.”

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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