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Pets as Therapy celebrate 20 years

Patient Phil Smith with PAT dogs Sweep and Topher at Crufts

For the past 20 years Pets As Therapy have been working in the community, making a huge impact in Hospitals, Hospices, Residential Homes, Day Care Centres, Special needs schools etc., by visiting with volunteers and their registered PAT dogs and PAT cats.

Pets As Therapy was established in 1983 when it was found that many people were becoming ill when they had to give up their companion pets on moving into residential accommodation. It was found that elderly people became depressed, stopped communicating and often losing the will to live through being cut off from animals.

A scheme was set up which the following year became a registered charity, whereby volunteers with their clean, well behaved dogs would visit on a regular basis to help cheer up these people.

What we didn't know was that it would prove to be so beneficial and would escalate into the respected charity it is today.

Facts about Pets As Therapy -

l Take the three initials from Pets As Therapy and you get the word PAT. That is why the dogs are called PAT dogs.

l Over 100,000 patients every single week benefit from the work of Pets As Therapy.

l Any dog can become a PAT dog as long as it has been with its owner for at least six months and can pass the necessary temperament assessment.

l Since its inception some 15,000 dogs have been registered and more recently approx 60 cats. Every year some of these retire through age or ill health therefore new recruits are always needed.

l There is a waiting list of establishments wanting PAT dogs to visit, therefore at present in some areas of the U.K. there is a need for many more PAT dogs and cats to be registered.

l 104 Area Co-ordinators look after volunteers in their own areas as well as organising social and fun events.

l Temperament assessments are undertaken by a team of people throughout the U.K. who have all taken an accredited course run by Pets As Therapy.

l Pets As Therapy volunteers are all covered by the special £5million public liability insurance whilst visiting establishments.

l Whilst on visits all PAT dogs wear a special I.D. disc on their collar. Their owners also wear a special photo I.D. badge.

l Most PAT dog owners make one visit a week, of between one and two hours, although some volunteers do more. Volunteers generously give their time so it is really up to them to decide how much they can spare, and when.

l Whilst the lives of thousands of people are regularly improved by Pets As Therapy, the whole charity is run by just three full time staff. It is their role to provide help and advice to the volunteer force, to encourage recruitment and to develop the reach, value and effectiveness of the charity's service. The average cost of this is £75 p.a. per volunteer of which up to £20 is generously met by subscription from the volunteers themselves.

l Responsibility for the Charity's performance is carried by a Board of unremunerated trustees.

No matter what breed of dog you own you must acknowledge that PAT dogs are great ambassadors.

During the last few years Pets As Therapy has become a multi award winning charity gaining recognition from several organisations e.g. the BKR Haines Watts Award for 'Innovation in non-clinical areas of NHS Trusts', The Charity of the Year 2001 by the Pet Role Trust and this year the Help the Aged Awards

To most of us interacting with animals is a very important part of our lives. They cheer us and give us comfort when we are depressed, keep us healthy and active, make us laugh and generally improve our quality of life. Imagine then the pain of being denied access to the animals we all love so much.

In a residential home for the elderly, Jean sits by the door every Saturday morning waiting for her friend the PAT dog to arrive. When the door opens Jean shouts with joy "Here's my ray of sunshine, she's my reason for staying alive". Such is the impact of a PAT dog.

To help celebrate the 20th birthday of Pets As Therapy an awareness week has been organised. This will run between 1st - 8th June. Over 40 events throughout the U.K. have been organised including

Responsible dog ownership days, Coffee mornings, Walks, Bad Hair days, Sponsored Down Stays,

Sponsored dog Wash 'n' Trim sessions, Come and Meet the PAT dog days, collections etc.
To find events happening in your area during PAT Awareness Week go to the Pets As Therapy website at

During PAT Awareness Week the new Pets As Therapy logo is to be launched.
If you would like further information about PAT Awareness Week please contact Maureen Hennis, Pets As Therapy 0878-730-8484