Pets as Therapy (PAT) was launched in South Africa in 2001. PAT is involved in animal-assisted activities. Neither the human volunteer nor the visiting animal companion need specialised training. The interaction between the human and animal companion is social and unstructured, but has therapeutic benefits – hence our name, “Pets as Therapy.” Animal-assisted therapy is more formal. It usually involves one particular animal and guardian assigned to a particular set of clients. There tend to be particular goals on which the team need to focus.
Many species may be regarded as therapy animals. PAT focuses mainly on dogs, although we have had a few cats visiting at sites. Volunteers typically visit their facilities two to three times a month. As we do not want to exhaust or stress animal companions, an hour is typically enough time for a visit.
PAT focuses on visits to facilities, and does not accommodate visits to individuals in private homes. PAT visits facilities country wide in South Africa. We have branches in the Greater Cape Town area from Fish Hoek to Table View, and from Helderberg to George and Knysna. We also have branches in Durban and Polokwane. Our volunteers and their animal companions (mainly dogs) visit people in a variety of settings:
- Children in hospitals receiving intensive medical treatment, awaiting operations, or in recovery;
- Visually and hearing impaired children and adults in formal care;
- Children with special educational and learning needs;
- Patients in special care facilities for Alzheimers and Dementia;
- Persons with intellectual and/or physical challenges;
- Group homes residents;
- Patients in long term residential psychiatric care;
- Patients in long term care and rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury and stroke;
- Children in court appointed safe house residential care;
- Teenagers with social challenges in care;
- Elderly persons in CPOA and other residences;
- Children experiencing difficulties in reading;
- University students during on-campus visits.
We do not charge any fees to the facilities that we visit. Facilities may get hold of us directly to request an assessment. Often the facilities that we assess are placed on waiting lists, until we find suitable and available volunteers.
We also do not offer specific training for, or general certification of therapy dogs or assistance animals, outside of the facilities that we visit. For further information about the training and assessment of TheraPets (facility animals), please contact Lucy Breytenbach at firstname.lastname@example.org