Riley Children’s Foundation received a $175,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, a leading funder of animal welfare in North America, to help expand and enhance the pet therapy program at Riley Hospital for Children.
The $175,000 grant, which will be paid in installments through 2019, will allow Riley Hospital for Children to hire a full-time child life specialist to serve as the pet therapy coordinator in addition to recruiting more pet therapy dogs and handlers to the program.
Currently, there are 12 therapy dogs “on-staff” at Riley Hospital for Children, but with more therapy dog teams, the program will be able to expand their services to additional units and increase the number of patients and families who benefit from the healing power of pets. As a child life specialist, the pet therapy coordinator will also be able to assess how patients are coping during their hospitalization and provide other support and services as needed. The grant will help improve the quality of visits and quality of care for patients.
“A lot of these families are here for a long time and in some cases they’re missing their animals at home,” Riley Child Life Specialist and Pet Therapy Coordinator Kim Ziegler said. “Being able to bring a pet into a patient’s room while they’re going through such a stressful time can really provide the whole family comfort and ease anxiety. Because of this generous gift from PetSmart Charities, Riley’s fleet of four-legged friends can bring even more smiles to kids.”
Pets have the remarkable ability to bring us comfort, to reduce stress and anxiety, and provide unconditional love. In fact, in a 2017 survey commissioned by PetSmart Charities and conducted by Wakefield Research, 94 percent of Americans surveyed agreed with the statement “Pets are essential for people to maintain good physical and mental health.”
“PetSmart Charities is proud to provide this support to Riley Children’s Foundation and Riley Hospital for Children as our organizations share an understanding of the remarkable hope, healing and joy pets can bring to patients, their families and even hospital staff members. In addition to providing unconditional love, companionship and alleviating everyday stresses, the healing power of pets can comfort and inspire these kids to work towards medical milestones during their recovery with the wag of their tail or an affectionate nuzzle,” said David Haworth, DVM, PhD, president of PetSmart Charities. “We strongly believe in the benefits of the human-animal bond and we look forward to seeing how this grant may help to bring more smiles to the faces of children receiving life-saving care and support at Riley Hospital for Children.”
Since 2012, PetSmart and PetSmart Charities has committed nearly $4 million to support animal-assisted therapy programs at hospitals across North America to enhance the quality of life for patients of all ages, families and staff.