More to the Story with Staley: Animal Rehab

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — When you think about physical therapy, you think about human beings. But you should know that the world of animal therapy is growing by leaps and bounds.

One of the leaders of that industry lives here in Chattanooga.

“There would be snickers,” said Physical Therapist David Levine. “People said dogs don’t need rehabilitation.”

But Dr. David Levine proved those people to be wrong. Nobody’s laughing anymore.

It’s the field of animal therapy, or animal rehab if you will. As a trained human physical therapist, Levine, who works fulltime at UTC, became interested in animal therapy back in the ’90s.

Most experts were not curious, but he was.

“Seeing injured dogs and saying to myself that we have the care in the human world, but we are not doing it with our pets,” said Levine “So, some 30 years ago, we started to do some research.”

Very quickly, that research by Levine and a few others led to a rapid expansion of the field itself.

Levine now teaches animal rehab. He’s written books about it. He has visited about 40 countries.

The practice is growing all over the world.

Here in Chattanooga, it’s a big reason why the Veterinary Care and Specialty Group, where Levine volunteers a couple of times a week, is expanding its operation.

Claudia Pullen is the owner of the Veterinary Care and Specialty Group. She said, “You just have to go back about a year and a half ago. A small portion of our business was created for animal rehab. It grew way too fast.”

Levine noted, “In this field, we’re looking to improve quality of life to make it as functional as possible, just as for humans. It’s a lot of the same principles.”

Levine says there are maybe 20 facilities in Tennessee that now offer animal rehab. Only a couple are here in Chattanooga.

But for Levine, a forerunner in this line of work, traveling the long road has been worth it from the start.

“In the old days, these animals might have been euthanized,” Levine said. “But now, we can get them back to a full quality of life, and that’s the fun part.”

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