New Grant Enhances Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program


In honor of National Therapy Animal Day on April 30, Children’s National Hospital announced a new grant from PetSmart Charities to enhance the hospital’s Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program. The grant supports the program’s two on-staff therapy dogs, as well as the recruitment and management of volunteer dog handler teams.

The Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program promotes healing in children undergoing medical treatment. The program’s four-legged friends provide a healthy diversion that eases anxieties, increases confidence and encourages cooperation.

“The warm presence of our therapy animals helps our care providers quickly establish a trusting rapport, which is essential for guiding our youngest patients through their hospital experience,” says Allison Proctor, program coordinator for the Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program. “PetSmart Charities’ generous support helps us bring more therapy animals to patients than ever before.”

The new grant from PetSmart Charities builds on its long-time support of the popular program. A 2018 grant enabled the hospital to hire its first full-time program coordinator and expand the program’s volunteers from three teams to 35. Pet therapy visits increased by 480% since 2018, thanks to the support of PetSmart Charities.

“We’re proud to partner with Children’s National to expand their Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy program,” said Kelly Balthazor, community grants manager at PetSmart Charities. “We strongly believe in the benefits of the human-animal bond, and we look forward to learning more about the impact highly trained facility dog programs can have on the therapeutic interventions that help children receiving life-saving care and support at Children’s National.”

Patient care at Children’s National means treating the whole child, not just their physical injury or illness. Integrative care services like the Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program help to meet the unique and highly-individualized needs of young patients.

Related: Chole, 10, shares how Barney helped make her stay at the hospital due to COVID-19 easier.

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