Intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins
Why is an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins so special?
Several research projects, among others at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, have proven the efficacy and sustainability of the dolphin-assisted therapy concept. The interaction between dolphin and patient is central to the concept. The goal in therapy is to activate and improve already existing individual skills. This includes
- Improving communication skills
- Strengthening self-confidence
- Improving gross and fine motor skills
- Speech development
- Cognitive development
- Psychological and physical developments
This holistic approach is practiced with dedication and competence in the therapy centers that delfine therapieren menschen collaborate with.
What diagnoses are indications for an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins?
What successes can be expected after an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins?
The ways in which an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins can be successful vary as much as the conditions that get treated. It is a fact that the intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins is in no way a miracle treatment. Yet, it often allows for rehabilitation of patients with traditional medical treatment methods or it can accelerate rehabilitation. Moreover, the intensive animal-assisted therapy shows sustainable effects. This relates mainly to improvements in communication skills, strengthening of self-confidence, improvements in fine and gross motor skills, speech and language development, cognitive development as well as psychological and physical developments.
How does the intensive animal-assisted therapy program with dolphins work?
The actual details of the therapy program vary from center to center and depend on the clinical presentation of the patient. A therapy session commonly consists of five parts. As an example, we have listed for you the process at the Curaçao Dolphin Therapy & Research Center (CDTC). delfine therapieren menschen e.V. collaborate with this therapy center.
- In preparation: conventional therapy in special therapy rooms
- Meeting the dolphins on a therapy dock
- Interaction and specific exercises in the water
- Practice of daily life skills outside the water
- Session evaluation with patients, therapists and parents
To maximize success in therapy, patients and families should participate for two weeks in the intensive animal-assisted therapy program with dolphins.
Is the intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins available for adults as well?
Adults too can participate in intensive animal-assisted therapies with dolphins, e.g. in case of trauma and abuse. We are happy to counsel you in a personal conversation according to your individual means and capabilities.
Where do the intensive animal-assisted therapy programs with dolphins take place?
delfine therapieren menschen e.V. currently collaborate with two therapy centers that meet our stringent quality standards and criteria for the dolphins’ living conditions. They are the Curaçao Dolphin Therapy & Research Center (CDTC) and the Florida – Island Dolphin Care (IDC).
delfine therapieren menschen e.V. has no economic ties to either therapy center. We are purely an aid organization and therefore completely independent.
Curacao Dolphin Therapy & Research Center (CDTC)
Since 2004, the therapy center on Curaçao has been working closely with “delfine therapieren menschen“. The therapy concept we have developed for the Curaçao Dolphin Therapy Center (CDTC) is oriented toward current medical research and centers around the interactions between dolphin and patient. Positive patient development, an increase in quality of life and rehabilitation aim to be accelerated. As a major advantage of this center, therapists speak English, Dutch and German as well. Parents and relatives can communicate directly and without any misunderstandings with the therapists.
At the Curaçao Dolphin Therapy Center, the dolphins live in a natural lagoon with exceptional water quality. Here, people and animals alike are given natural conditions for their interactions. This holistic concept provides the basis for an efficient therapy.
Therapy timeframes: available year-round
Therapy duration: 2 weeks
Florida – Island Dolphin Care (IDC)
The Island Dolphin Care (IDC) Therapy Center is a non-profit organization founded in 1997 by Deena and Peter Hoagland. Their son Joe was an affected patient himself and still works as a dolphin trainer at the IDC. The unique therapy concept specially developed at the time has been continuously optimized ever since. Thousands of families, veterans and people with special needs have successfully participated in the therapy. After a 2-year break due to Corona, the IDC reopened in May 2022 under a new management. The therapists achieve the greatest success together with the dolphins with autistic, behaviorally disturbed, maltreated and abused children and adults. In order to ensure the prerequisites for a successful therapy, the participating patients must be older than three years, control their own head position and be seizure-free.
In principle, therapy at Island Dolphin Care is conducted in English. Some therapists or interns understand and speak German. The IDC aims to provide unique and motivating dolphin-assisted therapy for children and adults with special needs and abilities. The IDC’s team consists of approved therapists, interns, the dolphins and their trainers. The dolphins live in a natural seawater lagoon and not only have ideal living conditions, but also receive the very best care.
Therapy timeframes: possible all year-round (water temperatures vary)
Therapy duration: 2 weeks
We will happily assist you in finding the right therapy center for you. Members of the Parent Council can help making that decision as well. They too are parents of special children and they and their children have already taken part in intensive animal-assisted therapies with dolphins. Thus, they can tell you first-hand about their experiences.
How long is the wait for a therapy spot?
Depending on the therapy center, there can be wait times, especially during vacation periods. Off season, therapy slots are generally available within a year’s time.
What language is spoken in therapy and are there interpreters?
In the centers, therapists work in the native language of the respective family (generally English, German, Dutch and Spanish).
Are the dolphins specially trained for therapy?
Yes. They have been trained and prepared for their tasks by experienced dolphin trainers and therapists.
Where do the dolphins live and what are their living conditions like?
Dolphin-appropriate husbandry is a must for delfine therapieren menschen e.V. It is the basis for a successful therapy. Therefore, delfine therapieren menschen e.V. strictly oppose dolphinariums. In both therapy centers on Curaçao and in Florida, the dolphins live in separate lagoons in their natural habitat. On Curaçao, the animals are also fed using specialty feed imported all the way from Canada. Also, the animals receive training and animation suitable for their level of intelligence.
Who are the therapists on location?
Constantly present in rotation are physiotherapists, speech therapists, neurologists, psychologists, special needs teachers. These experts have additional qualifications such as Castillo-Morales, Bobath, Neurodynamics, Lymphatic Drainage, Brucker Biofeedback. All therapy centers collaborating with delfine therapieren menschen e.V. also have a medical-scientific director.
Is the intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins offered in Europe as well?
An intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins, in accordance with the high-quality standards set by delfine therapieren menschen e.V., has not yet been offered in Europe. These strict criteria not only pertain to organizational or medical aspects with regards to a center (personnel, management, chain of emergency care etc.) but they also set clear demands for the species-appropriate living conditions for the dolphins.
Can I do an externship at one of the therapy centers?
Our collaborating centers are constantly looking for volunteers/externs.
Externs should already be qualified in their field (e.g. speech therapy, physiotherapy etc.) or be in the final phase of their study program.
The duration of an externship generally extends to at least 3 months. Excellent command of the English language (on Curaçao also Dutch, if possible) is a prerequisite. Questions surrounding the externship, such as accommodation, food and pay will be answered by the respective centers. Therapy centers are completely autonomous in their decision to take on externs. Please always send your application to the respective center.
Contact information for our collaborating therapy centers can be found here.
Registration and Organization
How do I register a child or adult as patient for an animal-assisted therapy with dolphins?
We have compiled detailed information for you that should answer many of your questions. Within, you will also find the questionnaire to prepare for your animal-assisted therapy with dolphins that you can use to register the patient with us. Of course, we are ready at any time to help with further questions.
Will I receive support with organizing the therapy?
delfine therapieren menschen e.V. offers counselling and support during the entire preparation and organization process for therapy. We will contact the respective center and help you with the paperwork. Whether you have questions concerning the physician’s letter or the process, we will be there to help.
Do I receive support planning our travels?
We are happy to help organizing your travels to one of the therapy centers. Our travel coordinator Lufthansa City Center Reiseart in Münster, Germany will, upon request, e.g. take care of the following:
- Bookings for accommodation and flights etc.
- Registration of special baggage like a wheelchair
- Information about entry procedures at your destination and VISA-related proceedings
Do I have to be a member of delfine therapieren menschen e.V. to receive help?
No! Contrary to other organizations you do not have to be a member of delfine therapieren menschen e.V. to receive support. We are of course happy about anyone wishing to become a supporting member. The minimum fee is 120 euros per year.
Is it possible to swim with the dolphins without a therapeutic approach?
delfine therapieren menschen e.V. do not procure dolphin swims. We are purely an aid organization.
I would like to do volunteer work. How can I support delfine therapieren menschen e.V.?
We are happy about any kind of support. We will gladly meet with you to talk about various opportunities to support us, for example at fairs, events, street festivals or in handling our daily administrative tasks. Give us a call or drop us a line.
Donations and funding
How much does an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins cost?
Depending on your choice of a therapy center, the costs will vary. Here you will find a list of charges for a family of four, including costs of therapy, flights and accommodation.
Does health insurance cover the intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins?
No, the therapy program must be paid for privately.
How does funding an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins work?
Therapy is generally paid for through donations. delfine therapieren menschen e.V. sets up a donations account for the respective person. To use this account, you have to first register your child or the adult with delfine therapieren menschen e.V.
Following registration, you will receive the account information.
Does the donation really reach the person in need?
We use person-specific donations for the patient whom they are meant for exclusively. For this specific use, certain formalities must be complied with.
Pursuant to § 2 of our by-laws, the intended purpose of a patient-specific donation must be explicitly stated, in form of a name, on the bank transfer form. In case the intended purpose has not been stated clearly, the donation will be considered non-specific and used in compliance with the statutory purposes. Should the organization be unable to use the donation as specified by the donor (e.g. because the patient is unable to take part in a dolphin therapy), it will serve a similar statutory purpose. In accordance with our by-laws, a donation cannot be reclaimed or withdrawn.
Does the donor receive a donation receipt for the donation?
At delfine therapieren menschen e.V., all donations are tax-deductible.
Pursuant to § 5 Abs. 1 Nr. 9 of the German Law of Corporation Tax (KStG), we are exempt from corporation tax, since we exclusively and directly serve tax-advantaged and not-for-profit purposes according to §§ 55ff. of the German Fiscal Code (Abgabenordnung). According to § 52 Abs. 2 Nr. 3 of the German Fiscal Code, we promote the following not-for-profit purposes: promotion of public health and public healthcare.
We are authorized to issue donation receipts for donations that we receive to use for these purposes.
How can donors deduct their donation from their taxes?
delfine therapieren menschen e.V. is state-approved by the tax authorities as a particularly eligible not-for-profit organization. Thus, membership fees and donations for delfine therapieren menschen e.V. are tax-deductible. For donations up to a total of 300 euros, tax authorities will accept your bank statement or the bank’s deposit slip as a donation receipt. Only for donations greater than 300 euros, tax authorities require the donor to submit an official donation receipt. Please let us know your address after donating. We will issue a donation receipt for you. You would like a donation receipt? Please send us an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org , stating the donation amount and date.
Please remember to state your address!
Can the costs of an intensive animal-assisted therapy with dolphins be claimed against the tax return as extraordinary expenses?
Our consulting legal expert, Prof. Dr. Hans-Josef Vogel has provided in-depth information for you here.