Pet-Assisted Therapy

//Pet-Assisted Therapy
Pet-Assisted Therapy2024-03-11T10:23:07-04:00

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.

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

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


“My mom is 91. She fell and had to crawl to reach her med alert, causing her stomach to move into her chest. The surgeon said it was one of the biggest hernias he’d ever seen. The options were hospice or surgery. Of course, we chose surgery — very difficult for a 91-year-old to recover from. I visit her every day at the rehab center, sometimes twice a day. She’s been very depressed. She talked about death, wishing she’d died on the operating table. I cried a lot. I didn’t know what to do to help her.  Then you showed up — with PUPPIES! Mom was allowed to hold and pet them. She cuddled them, she kissed them. Her whole mood changed. She is now trying to get well. She tells me that your group is coming again next month. She even requested a calendar so she can mark off the days until your visit.  Please pass this on to the wonderful people who brought the puppies. I hope they know what a difference they’ve made in many lives. The most important, my mom’s. Your kindness and effort has touched our whole family. I thank you with all my heart.”

Londa Hackett, Huntington Station, NY

Please Support Our SPOT Program

You can help brighten the days of thousands of seniors and children with special needs by supporting the Animal League’s SPOT program.

Contact our Shelter Pet Outreach Team for more information on our SPOT Program at [email protected].

Support our SPOT Program
Become a SPOT Volunteer

*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.