Household Pets Become Therapists at JKCC
Meet some of Joan Karnell Cancer Center's
newest cancer treatment team – Annie, Chimay,
Montana, Casey and Coco. You might have to look
down to see them. These treatment team members
are dogs and cats, part of Pennsylvania Hospital's
Animal- Assisted Therapy program.
Animal-Assisted Therapy helps patients recover,
boosts energy levels and elevates moods. At Pennsylvania
Hospital, therapy teams have been visiting patients
for over five years. This year, the Joan Karnell
Cancer Center introduced the pet therapy program
to its patients.
How Do Pets Heal?
Director of Volunteer Services Benedette D'Amore
has been working with therapy teams since 2000. “Therapy
dogs and cats help facilitate healing and recovery
in patients,” says D'Amore, “It
is a complementary therapy that has a therapeutic
effect as well as a psychological benefit. Patients
can't help but smile and have their spirits
lifted when they hug a dog and see a tail wag
or hold a cat and hear it purr.”
Recent studies show that pets help lower blood
and stress levels. Animals have a soothing
and calming effect on humans. Even animal grooming
can put patients at ease.
Currently, about 10 dogs and two cats volunteer
at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center. Right now,
patients can spend time with the pets within
a group setting. “At the cancer center,
the program is new,” said D'Amore, “We
thought the best way to introduce the pets would
be in a group environment.” As more visitations
occur and volunteer services receive positive
feedback from patients, D'Amore hopes to
add one-on-one visits between patients and pets.
What Makes a Pet a Pet Therapist?
Before joining the program, pets are certified
through a nationally recognized organization
such as the Delta Society, Therapy Dogs, Inc.
and Comfort Caring Canines. Pets must be up
to date with all their shots and must be in
“Pets also need a good disposition,” says
D'Amore, “They must be focused, obedient
and nonreactive to loud noises or things that
might startle them.”
Both “dog people” and “cat
people” are invited to take advantage of
the Animal-Assisted Therapy program at the Joan
Karnell Cancer Center. For more information on
how you and your pet can become a part of the
program, call (215) 829-5187.