Animals as Natural Therapy (ANT) offers healing programs for at-risk youth & veterans based on the knowledge that animals can teach humans important life skills, including: respect for self and others, trust-building, and clear communication. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, ANT operates out of Windy Acres, a one-hundred-year-old farm situated at the edge of Bellingham, Washington. Windy Acres provides a peaceful, secluded spot for our animal and human partners to practice their healing work. Over the past two decades, ANT has touched the lives of thousands of children and adults.
ANT provides youth and veterans the chance to develop self-confidence, leadership skills, and trust while discovering the effectiveness of honest communication and the contributions that they can make to society.
ANT’s equine-based experiential methods are highly effective in helping overcome many personal challenges in areas such as impulse control, anger management, attachment, PTSD, grief and anxiety. ANT’s projects successfully aid in preventing school drop outs; avoiding repeated incarcerations; circumventing gang, prostitution or drug involvement; and preventing suicide attempts.
Many youth coming to ANT are being raised by grandparents, extended family, foster parents, or adoptive families because of unstable home lives to to parental mental disorders, addictions, and incarcerations. Some live in shelters or on couches. Many of the families struggle with dysfunctional and abusive relationships, unemployment, and sporadic housing. ANT serves many different groups of people in our community, and our participants come from many walks of life.
Agencies we have worked with include:
- Catholic Community Services
- SeaMar Visions Chemical Dependency Treatment Facility
- Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
- Blue Skies for Children
- Lummi Youth Academy and Lummi Headstart
- Northwest Youth Services
- Secret Harbor Foster Program
- Compass Health
- Brigid Collins
- Whatcom & Skagit County public, private, and tribal schools
Since 2010, ANT has been nationally recognized as a PATH Intl. Premiere Accredited Center (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship), ensuring adherence to the highest industry standards of therapeutic horsemanship. ANT has also been recognized for its value to our community by The Whatcom County Dispute Resolution Center honoring ANT with the Community Peace-Builder Award in 2011; and the Whatcom Family & Community Network awarding our director, Sonja Wingard, the Ken Gass Community Building Award.
ANT programs utilize a unique combination of experiential learning methods, incorporating various equine, mental health, and education models. This approach sets ANT apart from other approaches & interventions.
Benefits of animals as a therapeutic intervention include: Improvement of attention, behavior, interpersonal interaction, and mood; Reduction of stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure; Reduction of self-reported fear and anxiety; Improvement of mental and physical health
Approximately 90% of the people we serve need financial assistance to attend. Scholarships are available thanks to the generosity of individuals and businesses in our community. To learn how you can help our youth & veterans, please visit our Get Involved page.