Pet Pals is an exciting program that brings volunteer dogs to UW Children’s Hospital to visit pediatric patients. Many of these children are hospitalized for extended periods with very severe diseases.
This program recruits, screens, and trains teams of Volunteer Dogs and their owners to visit children who are patients at UW Children’s Hospital. Our goal is to provide these very special kids with safe and enjoyable visits from loving canine friends.
Pediatric patients gather in the Pet Pals atrium to visit with our volunteer dogs. Some children just like to watch the dogs in action. Others love petting or holding the dogs. Some kids enjoy watching a dog perform tricks. The volunteer dogs always seem as excited about the visits and attention as the kids do! All of the pediatric patients receive a special Pet Pals stuffed dog and coloring book.
Pet pals participants receive general volunteer training at UW Children’s Hospital. These volunteers also receive specialized training at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.
New volunteers accompany experienced Pet Pals teams before making their first hospital visits with their own dogs.
Not all volunteers participate as members of hospital visitation teams. University of Wisconsin veterinary medical students assist in performing behavior and medical evaluations, fund raising, scheduling, and record-keeping.
Pet pals was developed by students, faculty, and staff of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Child Life Department at UW Children’s Hospital.
Faculty and students of the School of Veterinary Medicine conduct rigorous health and behavior evaluations before eligible adult dogs are accepted into the program. Pet Pals dogs are rechecked medically every 3 months. Pet Pals dogs are bathed and groomed before every hospital visit. During their visits they wear royal blue vests, not only to identify them as official hospital volunteers but also to minimize the spread of hair and dander.
The first level of evaluation is based on the accompanying Behavior and Health Information questionnaire, which will be reviewed by PET PALS veterinarians at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. The second level consists of a rigorous “hands-on” behavior evaluation by program veterinarians and veterinary students. If your dog passes the evaluation, you will be asked to contact the UW Hospital Volunteer Services Office and begin your own volunteer orientation.
The final stage of evaluation includes a complete physical examination and laboratory screening to assess your dog’s health status. Once your dog passes this final evaluation, and you complete your hospital volunteer orientation, the two of you will be admitted to the program and will begin training for and making visits to the hospital.
We’ll also schedule your dog for follow-up veterinary screens to ensure his or her continued suitability as a pet therapy volunteer. The initial veterinary evaluation, as well as the follow-up screens will be conducted at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine free-of-charge. However, you and your regular veterinarian will continue to be responsible for all other aspects of your dog’s health care, including routine vaccinations and monthly heartworm preventive.
This extensive evaluation process is critically important to the program’s success. It is designed to assure safe and enjoyable hospital visits for both the pediatric patients and our volunteer dogs. We realize that completing the evaluations is time-consuming and that only about one in fifteen dogs evaluated will be invited to become volunteers.
If your dog is not admitted or you do not have the time to complete the evaluations, please do not be disappointed — there are other important ways to lend support to the PET PALS program through organizational and fund raising activities. In addition, there are other means of volunteering your time and love to the UW Children’s Hospital. To learn more about these opportunities, please contact the UW Hospital’s Office of Volunteer Services at (608) 263-6046.
Finally, if you and your dog are interested in becoming PET PALS volunteers, please begin the evaluation process by completing the first page of the Behavior and Health Information questionnaire as thoroughly and honestly as possible. Be sure to include both daytime and evening telephone numbers. Ask your regular veterinarian to fill out the second page of the form. Then return the completed questionnaire to:
c/o Linda Sullivan
UW School of Veterinary Medicine
2015 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
Thank you again for your interest in our program!