Initially used in a mental health facility in the 1700s, and then again by the American Red Cross in military convalescent care after World War II, pets as therapeutic partners is a valued approach today in both the physical and psychosocial arenas.
Anyone who has felt a connection with a pet and experienced that unconditional love, understanding, and acceptance, knows the value of a pet’s companionship. These qualities make animals ideal therapeutic visitors for patients in hospitals and other medical facilities.
Connie Jankowski, former board member of the Animal Health Foundation, together with the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), established one of the nation’s first and leading pet therapy programs. Jan Vincent and her predecessor, Dr. Shirlee Brundage, have expanded and enhanced the program.
CHOC tells us:
The 1990s saw the establishment of the Caring K9s pet-facilitated therapy program sponsored by the Animal Health Foundation. CHOC became one of only 50 hospitals in the nation, and the only one in Orange County, to use pets to assist in the recovery of young patients. The therapy dogs and their owners aid children in oncology and the medical and surgical wards of the hospital, as well as in the physical, occupational, and speech therapy departments. Since 1994, the unconditional affection of these canine volunteers has raised the spirits of sick children and provided needed escape from hospital and treatment routines.
The Animal Health Foundation has sponsored over 140 therapy animal teams in the Southern California area. We are an affiliate of Delta Society and use their screening protocols when we evaluate interested pet owners, with their pets, who would like to volunteer as AHF Pet Partners.
Animal Health Foundation Pet Partner teams are currently visiting over 100 facilities including: acute care, assisted living, hospice, rehabilitation, and schools or libraries in four Southern California school districts. AHF Pet Partner teams also participate in special events and community outreach projects.