Pets As Therapy is a charity founded in 1983. It is organised by a small staff whose main goal is to recruit volunteers with their pets to provide therapeutic visits to any establishment that feels it would be beneficial.
Establishments falling into this category comprise largely residential homes, hospitals, special needs schools, hospices, day centres, etc. but anyone can apply. There are currently over 4,500 dogs and over 100 cats visiting. Over 130,000 people at present enjoy these visits (figures supplied by Pets As Therapy). The Charity benefits from its Supporters scheme as well as its thriving Junior Club.
The Charity application process for a prospective volunteer is relatively straightforward with an application form and two personal references. Theoretically, any dog or cat can become a Pets As Therapy regardless of breed, pedigree, size or age. The main criterion is temperament. Remembering the vulnerability of elderly, very young, physically disabled or ill people in particular, it is essential that the animal is calm, not easily stressed, responsive to commands and under control at all times. For this reason, all potential PAT dogs and cats have to undergo a fairly straightforward test by a Pets As Therapy trained assessor or a vet. In addition, they must be fully vaccinated, clean, free from fleas and well groomed.
If successful, the new volunteer has a contact from who they can request details of establishments waiting for a visit and they are then free to arrange visiting according to their own personal preferences and commitments. Whilst regular visiting is often preferred, as it becomes something to look forward to, one of the advantages is the flexibility regarding frequency and times. Pets As Therapy carry public liability insurance with an indemnity limit of £5,000,000.
For anyone interested in joining the local team more information can be found on the Pets As Therapy website www.petsastherapy.org or by calling 01844 345 445.