In the 1970s, registered nurse Elaine Smith noticed how well patients responded to visits  from a chaplain and his golden retriever, and started a program for training dogs to visit patients suffering from various mental issues ranging from autism to PTSD. But, people have been reaping the benefits of pets long before this; indeed, humans have been domesticating animals for at least 12,000 years. There are plenty of benefits for a child to grow up with pets. Here are a few that I read about on the Huffington Post:

They offer unconditional love: Pets are non-judgmental and offer companionship for children, especially for those that are lonely or suffering from distress. Pets can comfort, give support, and listen without judgement. 

They can teach children they don’t have to take out their problems on others: Children sometimes become bullies if they don’t have a safe space to share their emotions, and can project them onto other children.  Yet pets love your children no matter what they say, giving them a confidant.  

They can teach empathy: Caring for a pet that’s so 100% dependent upon you teaches a child empathy as they learn to read the needs of their ward.  It’s a skill that can be taught, and which bullies often lack.  

They can teach confidence and responsibility: The responsibility of caring for a pet can help give children confidence; children as young as three can fill a pet’s food and water bowls, and as they get older they can groom and walk their pets as well.

They can help socialize children: Pets don’t just offer children social and emotional support, but also cognitive language skills to support children. That’s why you see children chatting away with pets; their simple presence offers a verbal stimulus to help your child practice socialize and talking. This can be especially beneficial for children with special needs, as they may struggle to socialize with other people. Having an outlet like a pet can help them overcome the challenges of a disability.

 
They can be therapeutic for children: Studies have shown how pets can lower blood pressure, speed up recovery time, and reduce stress and anxiety. Children with mental issues can immediately relate, since they sense that animals are unconditional in their love and affection.