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FAQ's About Therapy Dog Programs Near La Jolla and San Diego

Pet owners are lucky people. Our four-legged friends offer companionship and unconditional love and contribute to our mental and physical health. Several studies have shown that pet owners often live longer and happier lives. Many pet owners also enjoy sharing the benefits of pet ownership with others, in the form of pet therapy. They bring their animals (mostly dogs) to visit those who are ill or recuperating in hospitals and convalescent homes.

Sharing animals to help others relax and feel better is not new. As early as the 18th century, pets were allowed to wander the grounds of a mental health facility in England, which helped the morale of confined patients. Sigmund Freud often had his dogs present during psychoanalysis sessions and noticed that they helped his patients relax. Therapy dogs also helped soldiers suffering from mental problems at American military hospitals during World War I. Since then, several organizations have formed to support animal lovers who are interested in offering pet therapy.

These include Love on a Leash: The Foundation for Pet-Provided Therapy (www.loveonaleash.org); Paws'itive Teams: Service and Therapy Dogs (www.pawsteams.org); and Therapy Dog Organizations (www.therapydogorganizations.net), which lists related organizations throughout the world and the United States, including 62 in California. In addition, many local hospitals near La Jolla, such as Scripps and UCSD Thornton, offer special pet therapy programs. You can bring your certified pet therapy dog to visit and comfort patients and staff.

The Scripps program includes approximately 25 therapy dogs and hosts an annual pet therapy holiday party and regular workshops for those interested in learning more about the healing effects pets have on humans. For more information, call Scripps Volunteer Services at (858) 626-6994.

The San Diego Humane Society offers a Pet-Assisted Therapy (P-AT) program for those interested in sharing their own pets or pets who live in the shelter. These can include dogs, puppies, kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats. The program includes training for both volunteers and their animals. Dogs must have passed the Canine Good Citizen class offered by the Humane Society or be otherwise certified as pet therapy dogs. They must also meet certain other requirements: be calm natured, able to related well to small animals, able to handle small spaces, be spayed or neutered, be at least one year old, and not be on a raw food diet. For more information, visit the Humane Society website (www.sdhumane.org) or call (619) 299-7012, ext. 2271. In addition to taking the Humane Society certification class, you can also certify your dog for pet therapy through private trainers and some online sites, including the World of Animal-Assisted Therapy (www.animaltherapy.net).

For more information about pet therapy in San Diego, a good place to start is your local La Jolla Veterinarian. As the trusted resource for all things La Jolla, our directly includes some of the top veterinarians in the business, who have worked in the local area for many years. And so our top vets will most likely be able to help.

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