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Pet-Assisted Therapy

Our Shelter Pet Outreach Team

North Shore Animal League America's Shelter Pet Outreach Team (SPOT)* program brings hope and love back into the lives of people who are alone, ill or live in specialized care facilities.

Each week our Pet Outreach volunteers and associates bring puppies and certified therapy cats to nursing homes, senior citizen centers, and rehabilitation centers. These types of animal-assisted activities have been widely recognized to have therapeutic effects, reducing stress and calming anxiety. These lovable animals put smiles on faces, and for those who are no longer able to care for a pet, they can help recall happy memories.

Benefits for Seniors

Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy sessions not only improve peoples’ mood, but also helps them recuperate from illness faster, become more physically and emotionally relaxed, and significantly reduces loneliness. A study done in New York, Missouri and Texas nursing homes showed patients' medication costs dropped an average of 69% when pets were allowed to visit.

Other benefits include helping seniors to:

  • Focus outside of themselves
  • Develop a sense of rapport with another living creature
  • Experience non-threatening physical contact
  • Socialize more
  • Stimulate their mental faculties

Benefits for Children

Animal-assisted activities are not just for seniors. The Animal League also visits Special Education schools in the tri-state area and works with children that are non-verbal, emotionally disturbed, and autistic. The children look forward to weekly visits from the therapy animals and are taught the basics of pet care and safety while interacting with them. They also learn how to give and receive love from a pet.

Children that are emotionally and medically fragile will sometimes completely relax when they are allowed to pet the animals, boosting not only their mood, but also their overall sense of self-esteem. After a recent visit to P.S. 177Q, a Special Education School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, one small girl that had never spoken before was heard to suddenly whisper "dog."

Other benefits include helping children to:

  • Develop a sense of empathy
  • Learn nurturing skills
  • Experience a rapport or connection with another living creature
  • Enjoy physical contact

Please Support Our SPOT Program

When you see the smile that the touch of a cat or dog can bring to the face of a hospitalized individual or child struggling with learning disabilities, you can't deny the healing power of pets. You can help brighten the days of thousands of seniors and children with special needs by supporting the Animal League's SPOT program.

Support our SPOT Program

Want to get involved? Become a SPOT Volunteer 

Contact our Shelter Pet Outreach department for more information on our SPOT Program at

* The SPOT program is not traditional pet therapy since it is not directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise as an integral part of the treatment process.