Therapy pets are an integral part of treatment programs at most, if not all, of the many hospitals, nursing homes and other health services organizations in the New York metropolitan area. Quite a few schools and libraries also welcome therapy pets as part of their programs. A number of facilities run their own programs, while most bring in outside therapy pet groups. Because there are so many different animal assisted therapy groups and programs in existence, it is simply not possible to name each and every one.
An October 2009 Internet search gleaned information for the following brief–and admittedly by no means complete–alphabetical listing of some groups that serve in Westchester County, New York City, Long Island and Fairfield County.
- Since 2000, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has been an East Coast affiliate of Delta Society, a national organization that aims to improve human health through the assistance of service and therapy dogs. According to its web site (www.aspca.org), ASPCA “helps to carry out Delta Society’s mission by providing full-service programs to the public in which individuals can register their dogs and cats as therapy animals who visit hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms, libraries and other facilities… Pet Partner teams are placed in facilities throughout New York City based on where they live, their interests and the appropriate environment for both handler and animal.” (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 424 East 92nd St., New York NY 10128-6804, 212-876-7700)
- The Connecticut Humane Society’s Pet Facilitated Therapy Program (www.cthumane.org/therapy.asp). Although its pet therapy program is located at the Newington headquarters only, the Connecticut Humane Society has a chapter located in Westport in Fairfield County. Volunteers bring a pet to visit people in a variety of therapeutic settings and may also have the option of visiting with therapy rabbits provided by Connecticut Humane. (Connecticut Humane Society, 701 Russell Rd., Newington CT 06111, 800-452-0114)
- Representatives of the Good Dog Foundation (www.gooddogfoundation.org), whose motto is “dogs helping humans heal,” visit approximately 190 facilities throughout the metropolitan area. Good Dog’s programs are too numerous and wide-ranging to mention individually, but for example the organization serves residential teens, adults and senior citizens at supportive housing and assisted living facilities throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens in New York City; provides reading support at a number of schools and libraries and also serves developmentally disabled patients and members of adult day care populations in Fairfield County. The Good Dog Foundation’s therapy dogs are on-hand to provide support at Hospice and Palliative Care of Westchester in addition to Phelps Hospice. The Good Dog Foundation also serves Dutchess, Columbia and Green counties in New York, along with Litchfield County in Connecticut and Berkshire County in Massachusetts. (The Good Dog Foundation, 607 Sixth St., Brooklyn NY 11215, 718-788-2988)
- SPCA of Westchester (www.spca914.org) began its pet visitation program, “Golden Outreach,” in 1990, believing, as its web site states, “that people’s mental and physical well-being often improves when they have a chance to interact with animals.” Volunteers take specially trained shelter dogs or their own dogs to visit the institutionalized in over 40 Westchester facilities, including nursing and retirement homes, hospitals and group homes and day care centers for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill. (SPCA of Westchester, 590 North State Rd., Briarcliff Manor NY 10510, 914-941-2896)
- Pegasus Therapeutic Riding (pegasustr.org) is based in Brewster, N.Y., and offers programs at horse farms throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties. Pegasus helps bring the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding to handicapped people of all ages. Chapters are located at Corgi Hollow Farm in Newtown, Conn., Kelsey Farm in Greenwich, Conn., Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, Conn., New Canaan Mounted Troop in New Canaan, Conn., Fox Hill Farm in Pleasantville, N.Y, and Pegasus Farm in Brewster. (Pegasus Therapeutic Riding, 310 Peach Lake Rd., Brewster NY 10509-1715, 845-669-8235)
- Located in Manhattan and on Long Island in Wantagh and Westhampton, Bideawee (www.bideawee.org) “was one of the first humane organizations to establish a pet therapy program,” according to its web site. “Launched in 1982, our program has grown to include dedicated two-legged pet therapy volunteers and their 168 dogs, eight cats, three rabbits and one 230-pound black pig.” As of 2008, Bideawee accepts volunteer teams registered with a nationally recognized animal assisted therapy organization such as the Delta Society. Local organizations will be considered upon evaluation of their guidelines. “However, we do accept a New York City registration from the Good Dog Foundation,” the web site continues. (Bideawee, 410 East 18th St., New York NY 10016; Manhattan: 212-532-4455, Wantagh: 516-785-4079, Westhampton: 631-325-0200)
- The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. (www.pet-therapist.com) is a non-profit organization that “evaluates, tests, trains, qualifies and supports therapy dogs for the purpose of giving loving and emphatic support in nursing homes, hospitals, psychiatric wards and other facilities where emotional service dogs are indispensable.” According to its web site, the group is presently recruiting qualified dogs to support several major hospitals in New York as well as Morningside House Nursing Home in the Bronx. (The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc., 80 Powder Mill Road, Morris Plains NJ 07950; 973-292-3316; 888-PET-5770)
- Delta Society is a nationwide non-profit organization “that brings individuals together who share a common passion — a love of animals and people, according to its web site, www.deltasociety.org. A number of metropolitan area therapy pet organizations are affiliated with the Delta Society, which has 155 Pet Partner teams with animal partners other than a dog or cat. As stated in www.hudsonvalleyvisitingpets.com, web site of Hudson Valley Visiting Pets, which serves Rockland and Bergen counties, Delta Society has “10 teams of guinea pigs, 37 teams of rabbits, two teams of domesticated rats, 68 teams of horses, one team of chinchillas, four teams of llamas, six teams of donkeys, two teams of pot-bellied pigs, six teams of cockatoos, one team of African gray parrots and four teams of chickens.” Wild or exotic animals (e.g. snakes, ferrets, lizards) may not be Pet Partners, the web site states. (Delta Society, 875 124th Ave. NE, Suite 101, Bellevue WA 98005)
- Long Island Riding for the Handicapped (www.lirha.com) has been providing cost-free riding classes to the physically and emotionally handicapped since 1978. The organization is accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association and its staff consists of a physical therapist, three instructors and a volunteer coordinator. (Long Island Riding for the Handicapped, PO Box 352, Glen Head NY 11545, 516-783-3059)
- Also in Long Island, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian (www.pal-o-mine.org) is a therapeutic riding program for those with disabilities. (Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, 33 Lloyd Harbor Rd., Huntington NY 11743)
- Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy was introduced by the Middle Island Rotary Club in 1993, with its first facility the Brookhaven Towne House for Adults. Since then its more than 200 volunteers and their dogs have visited more than 30 facilities and the organization seeks to expand the program to include all of Rotary district 7260 (Suffolk County) (Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy, 639 Medford Ave., Patchogue, NY 11772, 631-207-9325)
- Therapy Dogs International (www.tdi-dog.org) is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and their therapy dogs for visitations to institutions, facilities and any other place where therapy dogs are needed. Located in Flanders, N.J., TDI provides teams for metropolitan area assisted living programs, children reading to dogs (“Tail Waggin’ Tutors), DSR (Disaster Stress Relief), visits to homes, hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and shelters. It also provides support in a program called the “Final Visit,” in which funeral homes allow therapy dogs to “bring unconditional love and help to lighten a mournful atmosphere while bringing peace to individuals during an upsetting time.” (Therapy Dogs International, 88 Bartley Rd., Flanders NJ 07836, 973-252-9800)
- The pet therapy program at Westchester Medical Center was introduced in 1999 to enhance the hospital experience for patients who request a visit. All dogs that visit WMC are trained and registered pet therapy dogs and have passed the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. Volunteers are needed to assist the dog handlers as they visit patients throughout the hospital. (Westchester Medical Center, 100 Woods Rd., Valhalla NY 10595, for volunteer information: 914-493-7850)