Horses, dogs, goats and many other animals are all playing their part in projects to improve and enhance the health and well-being of people in Essex.

Whether it is a wheelchair user feeling freedom through horse riding, a donkey visiting people in hospice care, someone in a care home cuddling a greyhound or a teenager with anxiety building confidence by working with creatures great and small, there is no doubt about the therapeutic power of being with animals.

Spending time with any animal can help reduce feelings of loneliness and stress, overcome trauma and make a positive difference to mental health. Animals provides comfort and distraction to those who may be feeling low and can also be a benefit to anyone with social barriers, including people with learning disabilities or autism.

Essex Community Foundation (ECF), the independent charitable trust which distributes around £4.5 million in grants to local charities each year, has supported a wide range of voluntary organisations with projects that utilise animals to improve the lives of local people.

Ace Hounds, in Uttlesford, was set up and is run by a small and dedicated team. They take retired racing greyhounds into care homes for elderly people and spend time with those who feel lonely or isolated.

The project was temporarily paused during the COVID-19 pandemic but was able to restart thanks to a grant from ECF of £5,000.

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