Aroha Animal Therapy and Wildlife Sanctuary

Aroha Animal Therapy and Wildlife Sanctuary is a new charity that has been recently established in the Outer Hebrides, with its base in Stornoway.  It is the brainchild of Lily Mackenzie, a therapist for over 20 years with experience of working in the areas of mental health and trauma recovery.

In 2019, Lily retrained in the non-talking support of Canine Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). AAT has proved to be a very beneficial and successful support for people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Animals can provide a deep social and emotional support for a person, as they are non-judgemental, non-threatening and comforting.  Animal Assisted Therapy promotes stress reduction, self-confidence and can re-engage a person who is withdrawn bringing them out of isolation.  AAT has no barriers as animals make no distinctions they can connect regardless of a personal language, impairment, or challenges. 

Lily Mackenzie explains:

“Aroha is a Māori word for compassion or kindness.  Aroha Animal Assisted Therapy Centre and Wildlife Sanctuary is now a registered charity, with an incredible Board of Trustees.  Our main aims are to make AAT accessible to any individual, group, or event.  To empower people, promote mental health awareness and well-being.”

Aroha is holding a series of special storytelling sessions at Stornoway Library, featuring Moby, the lovable Old Tyme bulldog. Moby is incredibly calming and can encourage a safe and relaxing interaction.  These storytelling sessions will take place on Saturday 9 April and Thursday 14 April, at 1pm and 2pm.  For those unable to make these sessions, more are being planned for the future.

Kathleen Milne, Libraries Manager for Western Isles Libraries said:

“For some time, we have read about the positive impact of animal companions on helping children gain confidence in reading and we are so thrilled with the opportunity to work with Aroha on introducing similar sessions.  We look forward to being able to introduce more sessions at libraries across the islands.”

The wildlife sanctuary part of Aroha is still in the process of being funded and when established we will be raising awareness of local wildlife needs and will have a dedicated team actively involved in rehabilitation and release of animals.  All staff and trustees are committed to animals and believe they should be afforded the same consideration as humans. 

The state of the animal's body and mind, nutrition, health, environment, behaviour, and mental state is paramount to Aroha. We believe and promote that all animals should have freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, injury, pain, or disease.

Additional Information on the Aroha therapy dogs:

  • Moby our Old Tyme bulldog is incredibly calming and can encourage a safe and relaxing interaction.  He loves cheese and walking in the castle grounds. 
  • Blue our Micro Pug is great fun and is small, so perfect for people who like a dog near or in close contact. She loves connecting with people and has been my co-therapist for 3 years. She loves sleeping and being warm. 
  • Oz our French bulldog spots heightened anxiety and by using his body weight he grounds a person and keeps a connection with you until it lowers. He is a special wee dog who loves being around people. Oz also loves zoomies on the beach and watching cartoons.