Pet Therapy Programs have been implemented and successfully used in a variety of areas with children. These areas include, but are not limited to: greeting families prior to services , forensic interviews, medical examinations, court depositions, trial and, of course, therapy. The benefits of a Pet Therapy Program enhance the lives of children in amazing ways.
Animals have been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure, with humans, within the first ten minutes of interaction. Also, animals don’t judge a child who may be embarrassed or hurt disclosing abuse but instead, animals offer a sense of calm and comfort.
In some cases, the animal and child may have similar situations i.e. being fostered or sheltered.
The most important lesson learned is empathy something that abused children may forget or not have learned.
With the help of the Human Society of Sarasota County (HSSC) Pet Therapy Program, the Child Protection Center utilizes pet therapy teams that are certified, registered and insured to assist children.
P.A.W.S.: Animal Advocates: Companionship, Empathy and Unconditional Support.
The P.A.W.S. Program Provides Comfort and Aid to Children and Families in times of trauma and crisis through Certified Pet Therapy Animals and Screened Handlers.
With the assistance of the HSSC Pet Therapy Program, animal advocates are certified to work with humans through the Therapy Dogs Inc. therapydogs.com.
Animal Advocates must pass a bevy of tests including but not limited to obedience and temperament, and have documentation of rabies, records of shots and are parasite free. Animal advocates must be properly groomed.
Along with the animal advocates, Handlers must also show the ability to properly handle their animals and adhere to the same policy and procedures that the CPC staffs follow, this includes passing a background check, confidentiality and mandatory reporting of abuse (child and animal abuse). Handlers are not to interrupt and speak to the child unless the child is asking the Handler questions about the pet therapy animal. Situations are difficult, if a Handler is having issues with any sort of disclosure of abuse, then they must excuse themselves from the situation and immediately speak with a staff member for support.
Both animal and child must demonstrate proper behaviors to participate; if the animal is in distress or the child becomes aggressive the Handler will remove the animal from the situation.
For more information about the CPC PAWS Program contact Danielle Shetler at 365-1277 ext: 212.
For more information about Pet Therapy contact the Humane Society:
Humane Society of Sarasota County Pet Therapy Program
Kate Franklin, Education Director
2331 15th Street Sarasota, FL 34237
(941) 955-4131, ext. 114
Fax (941) 955-3715
Child Protection Center, Inc.
720 South Orange Ave.
Sarasota, Florida 34236
2210 S. Tamiami Tr.
Venice, Florida 34293
North Port Location:
6919 Outreach Way
North Port, Florida 34297
222 N. Roberts Avenue
Arcadia, Florida 34266