A German hospital uses furry Alpaca animals to treat patients who suffer from mental disorders and to help outlaws in social reintegration.
Over the past 10 years, the Mainkofen psychiatric hospital in Bavaria offered many of its patients an unfamiliar way to calm their rage: a farm that houses many Alpaca animals on a property near the hospital.
The patients on the program have daily tasks, such as to feed the alpacas, walk them, brush their coats, dress their wounds and clean out their stables.
Erwin Meier, whose name has been changed for this report, said "I like it very much. It's fun to work with animals. There is something to do every day."
The animals have helped him control his anger.
"I used to get angry quite quickly, I was impulsive, but it's improved thanks to the animals because if I get angry, they get angry too, and the calmer I am, the calmer they are too," he added.
The program is open to all patients at the hospital but intended primarily for outlaws.
Alpacas serve as an escape route for those patients who, in normal times, are not allowed to leave the clinic facilities. But the rules are strict: If they stay out for too long or outside the authorized hours, permission to spend time with the alpacas is revoked.
"Normally, the patients at the clinic do not have contact with 'normal' people," says Silke Lederbogen, pedagogue in charge of this program in Germany and owner of the alpacas.
"But now they walk with the alpacas around the clinic area and talk to visitors, other patients and doctors who ask them questions like 'Do alpacas spit? Can I pet them? Where do they come from? How do they eat? And they manage to respond competently," she declares.