St. Mary’s Expands Pet Therapy Program to Help Kids Meet Rehabilitative Goals

Ken, Barbie and Polo are three of our hard working four-legged volunteers. They are the gentle therapy dogs who visit our children each week as part of our Animal-assisted Therapy Program. Pet therapy helps children with special needs reach rehabilitative goals, experience greater well-being, and improve physical, social, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning.

Our program has been growing for over 10 years, and was further enriched in 2009 when we partnered with the North Shore Animal League. Currently we have 3 therapy dogs that visit our inpatient and Pediatric Day Healthcare (PDHC) Program children. Our pet therapy handler is also training a 4th dog, Pumpkin, and a 5th dog Reese may also join the therapy pack.

Our children, their families and even staff look forward to the sessions. Staff have noted increased vocalizations in children, improved social skills, improved use of non-dominant hands, and overall increased alertness in the children during pet therapy sessions. We are working to expand our program to include non-domestic pet therapy, which would see therapy horses and pigs join the program.
Special thanks to the Laura J. Niles Foundation for their generous support of pet therapy since 2008.

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