The Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program originated from the belief that dogs offer a therapeutic value to children that human family members and hospital staff cannot give.
This program gives children the opportunity to interact safely with the dogs and receive their unconditional love and acceptance in the hopes of making the hospital environment more comfortable and less stressful.
Our program involves trained volunteers and their dogs who visit the children at CHOP. Additional benefits of pet therapy are:
- Positive therapeutic experiences that help minimize the stress of the hospital environment
- Support of the overall social, physical and emotional development of the child
- Reduced anxiety and enhanced coping skills by providing a distraction from illness and hospitalization
- Increased normalization of the hospital experience by making it more "home-like"
Pet therapy volunteer requirements
Because we are a healthcare organization, there are some requirements you must fulfill before you can volunteer at the Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program at CHOP. For the safety of our patients, their families, and for you, we ask all potential volunteers be able to commit to the following:
Age. To become a pet therapy volunteer, you must be 18 years or older, and your dog must be at least 1 year old.
Certification. We require that all therapy dogs and handlers have a current therapy certification through Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs International, Therapy Dogs Inc. or Comfort Caring Canines.
Time Commitment. We ask pet therapy volunteers to commit to a minimum of one two-hour shift per month.
Interview and Screening. We conduct a phone interview and/or a one-on-one interview with applicants. All dogs must be medically and behaviorally screened through The Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania at no charge to the owner. A portion of the cost of animal healthcare is underwritten by The Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.
Background Check. Per Pennsylvania Act 73, acceptance to the volunteer program is contingent upon completing FBI Fingerprinting. We also require completion of a complete criminal background check and Child Abuse Clearances prior to acceptance into our volunteer program. These clearances will be facilitated by CHOP if you are selected to volunteer. Clearance results can take up to 6 weeks to receive.
Health Clearances. All human volunteers are required to prove immunity to mumps, measles, rubella, and chicken pox, as well as a Tdap vaccination. Volunteers are also required to receive an annual tuberculosis (TB) skin test and the seasonal flu vaccine. The annual tuberculosis test and seasonal flu vaccinations are provided free of charge at CHOP. All dog volunteers are required to have current vaccinations and rabies boosters. Dog cannot be on a raw foods diet at any time during their participation in the program. Raw food diets present an increased risk of pathologic bacterial and protozoal shedding and infection that can compromise the health of our patients. Veterinarian records must be updated twice a year (once a year at VHUP and once a year at your personal vet). If your dog spends any time in a kennel or becomes ill, a fecal sample needs to be cleared through VHUP (the appropriate collection container will be provided). Dogs must be washed within 24 hours of the visit and dry upon entering the hospital (please refrain from using any flea and tick topical 2 days prior to visit).
Orientation and Training. Once volunteer teams are cleared, they will also be required to attend a two hour Unit/Patient Care Orientation. Volunteers will be escorted on their first three visits by the program coordinator, and may also be asked to complete additional training as required.
Restrictions. Volunteers must abide by all patient confidentiality guidelines, customer service expectations and hospital policies. Dog must be on a leash (except with obedience exercises which must be previously approved), not pushed in any type of stroller, or transported in any type of carrier. Dogs with missing or paralyzed limbs may utilize a doggie wheelchair. For identification purposes, your dog must wear a CHOP bandana (provided to you) at all times while in the hospital.