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Animal-Assisted Therapy

Ways to Help

We provide an Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program to patients and their families for therapeutic purposes. Scientific research has shown  a patient's interaction with an animal can provide positive physical and emotional benefits. It can reduce stress levels and invoke a sense of well-being. AAT acts as a catalyst to motivate patients to help themselves. A child will happily take a dog for a walk, or throw the animal a ball, forgetting the pain for a little while and moving closer to going home.boy with dog

Among the specific benefits of animal-assisted therapy are the ways it motivates children to:

  • Get up, move, walk, leave their room and play.
  • Participate in therapy (physical, occupational and speech).
  • Forget their discomfort or pain.
  • Interact more with others.
  • Improve their mood.
  • Improve their interactions with family and staff.
  • Do things that may be a struggle, such as eating, taking medication or waiting.

Our volunteer therapy animals and owners are trained and nationally-certified. Group events and individual bedside visits are requested by the patient's doctors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists or child life specialists. The program coordinator creates a session with the patient and the team that works toward the patient's treatment goals.

For more information about animal-assisted therapy for your stay at the Hospital, please email the program coordinator, Mary Lou Jennings, or call 602-933-2136.  For information on how to become involved in the program, check out our Animal-Assisted Therapy Volunteer FAQ.

Volunteering without a Pet

Whether or not you have a pet, you can still volunteer as part of our Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program! We need volunteers to go with each Paws Can Heal team on their AAT visits. The volunteer escorts are a critical part of the Paws Can Heal Program. We look for volunteers with experience in a hospital, with children and animals. They help keep our patients safe, gather data on all our visits and help our teams help patients meet their treatment goals.

All prospective volunteers must attend a Volunteer Information Session as the initial step to volunteer.

Volunteering with a Pet

If you would like to volunteer with your pet, first you must both become nationally registered as a therapy animal team. Our Paws Can Heal therapy animal teams are nationally registered and have 6-12 months of experience as a therapy animal team in a healthcare setting.

There are several national organizations that evaluate and register therapy animal teams. The evaluator will test you and your pet. Your pet needs to be calm and predictable, pass basic obedience skills tests and be comfortable in a variety of settings and environments. Phoenix Children's recognizes the following national organizations that are accredited to evaluate you and your pet:  (Therapy Dogs International) (Allliance of Therapy Dogs, formerly known as Therapy Dogs Inc.)

Once you are registered with one of the above organizations, you can volunteer with your pet in a healthcare setting to gather the experience required for a Paws Can Heal team. We look for volunteers who have a passion for volunteering, especially with children, and have work experience or volunteer experience in a healthcare setting. Once you have 6-12 months experience as a therapy animal team, your next step is to attend a Volunteer Information Session at the Hospital or online. All those interested in volunteering at Phoenix Children’s attend this one-hour session first. (No pets at this session.)

We look forward to having you join our program!

Dine With Your Dog

Dine With Your Dog, presented by PetSmart, is an annual celebration of support for our Animal-Assisted Therapy Program with a Champagne Sunday Brunch. Guests mingle with fellow animal lovers, explore the pet play areas, enjoy a fabulous silent auction and a lovely brunch spread. Visit to find out more, view photos and register!

Your Donations Count

Our Animal-Assisted Therapy Program is completely funded by the proceeds from special events and donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. If you would like to support the Program, there are two ways to donate:

Please send your tax deductible check to:

Phoenix Children's Foundation
Attn: Animal Assisted Therapy Program
2929 E. Camelback Road, Suite 122
Phoenix, AZ 85016

- or -

Visit our online donation page.

Thank you for your support!

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