The Pet Encounter Therapy (P.E.T.) Program brings the unconditional love and tactile benefits of animals to people in facilities such as abused children’s shelters, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and senior centers. Groups also have the option to visit the Center for on-site programs. Staff and volunteers take dogs, rabbits, birds, or guinea pigs to visit more than 45 facilities a month, with many organizations on our waiting list. Studies document that holding and caressing an animal provides benefits such as relaxation, lower blood pressure, improved long- and short-term memory and sensory stimuli.
Animals often bring out the best in people. They can calm hyperactive children or stimulate movement and interaction in those with physical disabilities. During our PET visits, we’ve seen movement from unresponsive patients or heard words spoken for the first time-all to the amazement of fellow residents and staff members.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of animal-assisted therapy?
The program provides opportunities for special-needs people to experience the benefits of human-animal interaction. Along with being enjoyable for the people we visit, the interactions can also provide stress reduction, relaxation, lowered blood pressure, increased attention span, increased memory recall, and improved self-esteem. Benefits for the P.E.T. animals include a work schedule of one hour each day with the next day off, the love of hundreds of people, and the best care and housing available. Benefits for the staff and volunteers are the satisfaction of truly touching the lives of the people we visit.
What animals do you use in the P.E.T. program, and where do they come from?
We have a large variety of animals-from dogs and cats, to rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, and birds-working with volunteers in our program. Many of our volunteers use their own animals in our program, while others, who many not have an appropriate animal at home, use the animals at the Center. Most of these small animals come from backgrounds of neglect or abandonment and are rehabilitated into this program.
What type of facility does the P.E.T. program visit?
We visit any facility that has a client population that can benefit from animal visits. We offer our services free of charge to any non-profit facility and charge $20-$40 per visit for other facilities.
How can I volunteer for this program?
If you would like to be a P.E.T. volunteer, call the P.E.T. program at 858-756-411 ext 322.
To find out additional information about this program, call 858-756-4117 ext 322 or visit Helen Woodward Animal Center at 6461 El Apajo Road, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067