We currently serve 15 schools in North Carolina within Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro . . . and we have numerous requests for new teams, so we’re hoping to raise the funds needed to continue expanding.

We have 28 active teams with 33 dogs and and 21 inactive teams (inactive teams may or may not return; typically this means they are on temporary leave, dogs have been retired, dogs are deceased, or handler has moved).

School counselors or social workers serve as PetPalsNC liaisons in each participating school.

In 2007 Wendy Stewart, a licensed clinical social worker who worked as a social worker for Orange County Schools researched pet-assisted therapy as a possible way to better reach students in a non-traditional high school.

Wendy became certified as a Team with Ella, a rescued mix, followed by Julius and Foster. All three therapy dogs rotated days, working with students in both of Wendy’s assigned schools.

As word spread about the good things that were happening with the dogs, other schools requested therapy dogs, and in 2010 Wendy established “Pet Pals” as a program and began to recruit other therapy teams from the community to place in those schools.

Wendy retired in 2014 from the school district and set to work to grow the program.

In early 2016, PetPals NC was incorporated and received 501(c)3 status.

Defined as a purposeful interaction between an individual or group and a trained animal to achieve any number of benefits and/or goals. The animal and handler act as a Team and must be registered and/or certified and maintain membership in one of the pet therapy organizations such as Pet Partners, TDI, Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and Love on a Leash. These screen, evaluate, and insure, but do not train the animals. Pets other than dogs can be certified by some organizations. At the moment, only teams with dogs participate with PetPalsNC at present time, but we are open to including other certified animals such as cats.

The therapeutic use of animals in work with humans has a long history, and its popularity is steadily increasing. Therapy animals are being used almost everywhere such as after critical incidents and disasters, in hospitals, assisted living centers and nursing homes, court rooms, airports, rehab centers, veterans’ programs, trauma centers, psychiatric facilities, hospice, workplaces, and schools.

Mental

 Increases verbal interactions among group members

 Increases attention skills

 Increases self-esteem

 Reduces anxiety

 Reduces loneliness

 Improves depressive symptoms

 Decreases behavioral problems

 Enhances emotional well-being

Physical

 Improves fine motor skills

 Improves gross motor skills like balance and coordination

 Relaxes the body

Educational

 Increases vocabulary and reading fluency

 Improves attitude toward reading

 Aids in long and short-term memory

Social & Motivational

 Improves willingness to be involved in a group activity

 Improves interactions with others and with staff

 Improves communication and cooperation

 Enhances empathy and sensitivity development

In educational settings, therapy pets not only work in elementary and secondary schools, but also in universities and colleges to help students de-stress with dogs before exams. Many of the PetPals dogs are called to Duke, UNC, and other campuses to work with hundreds of students.

 

Why use therapy animals in schools?

  • Pets provide unconditional love.
  • Pets do not discriminate, judge, laugh or criticize.
  • They are excellent, attentive listeners.
  • They help students to focus.
  • They encourage relaxation and lower blood pressure.
  • They help to promote schools as caring and compassionate.

 

What do pets do in schools?

  • Services provided are called Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT), both similar, but AAT is more involved (specifically planned interventions that are goal-directed, designed for a particular student, and progress is measured).
  • Students can be worked with individually, or in small or large groups.
  • Whole classrooms might be involved, such as in presentations about animal care or humane education.
  • Depending on the task, work can take place in the classroom, in offices, or outside.
  • Examples of Pet-Assisted Interventions in Schools:
    –  Practice teaching the animal something new using sequencing.
    –  Practice reading and articulation
    –  Learn about and practice care, watering, and feeding of the animal
    –  Manipulate vest zippers and collar buckles
    –  Brush and pet
    –  Remember and repeat information about the animal to others
    –  Take the animal for a supervised walk
    –  Receive and give appropriate affection and acceptance with the animal
    –  Discuss how animals may feel in certain situations and compare to humans
    –  Learn gentle ways to handle animals
    –  Signal and/or verbalize commands

My student often stutters when reading aloud, but didn’t stutter once when reading to the therapy dog.

-Teacher

In addition to reading, my dog has had a poem written for him and a private recorder concert. I find that the kids love to call him to “come.” It’s about having self confidence and a simple relationship with another being.

-Handler

Spending time with the therapy dog is helping my child overcome her fear of dogs.

-Parent

A student with autism who rarely speaks is comfortable speaking to the therapy dog.

-Social Worker

I feel relaxed when I am working with a therapy dog because I am having fun!

-Student