Be A Part of The Team: Show Love, Increase Comfort & Spread Joy Throughout The Community

July 28, 2022

The use of Animal Therapy to assist people with Special Needs is not a new concept. There is increasing evidence and statistics that show that the Emotional and Psychological benefits of Pet companionship have Physiological counterparts as well. Pets improve not only the intangible “quality of life” but also improve human health.

There have been many studies documenting that petting and caring for animals, particularly those with whom a bonded relationship has been established, can reduce Blood Pressure, slow Heart Rate and improve survival rates from Heart Disease. Animal Assisted Therapy is being used in a wide variety of settings to help people with acute and chronic illnesses throughout our community. Animal Assisted Therapy Teams visit patients in almost every Hospital in Broward County, they visit various floors to bring the joy of their pets to those who are ill or recovering in the Hospital.

When the program was first established, it served the elderly residents of Nursing Homes in Broward County. Today, the program is well known in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties; they have expanded to help the Abused, Neglected, Physically and Mentally Ill people of all Ages and Genders. The Program includes: Teams that visit over 100 Facilities such as Senior Retirement Homes, Hospitals, Hospice, Mental Health Facilities, Children’s Facilities, Foster Homes and Group Homes along with Broward County Public Schools, Broward County Public Libraries, Broward County Private Schools and Private Libraries.

One of the participating Hospitals has several Animal Assisted Therapy Teams that visit their Pediatric Ward and their Pediatric Emergency Units. The AAT Teams visit the patients’ rooms and help to reduce the Stress and Anxiety of the Children. Many times when the Children need to have blood drawn, the dogs are right there beside them so they can pet the dog and have a distraction while their blood is being taken. The interactions between the dogs and the patients are remarkable.

Janice Zack, Certified Child Life Specialist says, “We see this time and time again with the patients. Pets reduce stress, lift spirits and promote healing in a comforting way.” The volunteers and companion animals visit their assigned Senior Facility and give those residents and patients an opportunity to pet the animal, socialize with one another and tell loving stories about their beloved animal friends. AAT Visits can be as basic as “meet and greet” or as structured as working on specific goals with individuals under the supervision of a Trained Staff Member.

The type of Visit depends on the need of the Facility. Additionally, the AAT teams and their Therapy Animals educate the children in the community on Pet Safety and how to prevent a dog bite, how to properly care for a pet and why it’s so important to Spay and Neuter your pet amongst other topics.

It’s critically important to ensure that each child and adult that meets with the Therapy Animals learn how to be safe around animals and then help us to spread the word to others on Pet Safety. Currently, they have over 100 dogs, a few cats and a dwarf horse in our AAT Program. Each Certified Therapy Team receives Specialized Training prior to placement in the Program. The Volunteer/Animal Team must take a series of Classes, including Specialized Training Classes, in order to be considered for Certification in this Elite Program. The Animal Assisted Therapy Program (AAT) is a rewarding experience for you and your companion animal, so why not become a part of this caring Team?

How to Become an Animal Assisted Therapy Team
If you would like to spread some love and comfort throughout the community and become a part of the Animal Assisted Therapy Team and to register for Program Orientation (without your animal), contact the Volunteer Department at: (954) 266-6814. This Class will teach you all about our Animal Assisted Therapy Program and what skill requirements both you and your animal must possess in order to be considered for our Program.

If further Training is not required, you will be scheduled for your Evaluation. The meeting, inclusive of the evaluation, will take approximately 1.5 hours. Evaluations are conducted at various locations in Broward County. Volunteers will need to provide a copy of their animal’s updated Veterinarian Records showing that all Vaccinations were administered at the time of the Evaluation.

If you have multiple pets, the requirement is one pet per handler. You may have multiple pets Evaluated and if they pass you will be required to only bring one pet per visit and you may rotate your pets as necessary.

If you are interested in joining the Animal Assisted Therapy Program, please contact the Humane Society directly at: (954) 266-6814. Or email them at: therapy@hsbroward.com