Hato Hone St John is seeking furry friends for a new Therapy Pets programme in Hawke’s Bay.

The programme brings the companionship of dogs to people at rest homes, healthcare facilities, schools, and community events.

Hato Hone St John Community Care Manager Pam Hall, said the “much-loved” programme has had a positive impact on both mental and physical wellbeing throughout Aotearoa, “so we are absolutely thrilled to be bringing these benefits to Hawke’s Bay”.

With the service now launched, Hall said suitable dogs and dog-owners were invited to volunteer for the programme.

“The ideal therapy dog has a friendly, calm and gentle temperament, and is good with both the very young and elderly,” she said.

“If you think your canine companion has what it takes, and you want to help make a positive difference in the Hawke’s Bay community, Hato Hone St John would love to hear from you.”

To ensure each pet has a suitable temperament and adequate training, all dogs will be evaluated by a qualified animal assessor.

The time commitment for Therapy Pet volunteers is one hour per week.  

Once enough furry volunteers have been recruited, Hato Hone St John will start contacting local organisations interested in hosting pet therapy visits.

Aside from bringing animal companionship to the community, Hall said the initiative also helped children develop confidence when reading, through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) programme.

“Being in close physical contact with a dog can help reduce stress for young readers by shifting their focus from the people in the room to the animal.

“By reading to a non-judgmental, unconditionally devoted pet, children become more engaged, relaxed, and find greater fun in learning.”

Hawke’s Bay resident and Hato Hone St John District youth manager Tess Sykes said the benefits of animal companionship were well-known.

“Nothing quite compares to the unconditional love animals provide. Their friendship can reduce anxiety, ease loneliness and, of course, provide physical benefits through exercise,” she said.

“We can’t wait to spread a little animal aroha throughout the community.”

The therapy pets programme was first introduced into New Zealand in 1988 by Iris and Bob Kerridge (SPCA), after they saw a similar programme operating in San Francisco, and saw the potential for Aotearoa. 

In 2003 the SPCA partnered with us to grow the service within the Auckland area and ultimately throughout the country. 

Today, Hato Hone St John – supported by Summerset Retirement Villages – operates the service and aims to grow the programme to reach more people and communities and make a positive difference to their health and wellbeing.

People interested in volunteering can contact [email protected].

Photos supplied.

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air

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1 Comment

  1. The best read of the day! It makes perfect sense and is all very obvious the benefits animals bring to our lives. As humans we have much to learn from them. X

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