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Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program at Children’s National Hospital receives new grant from PetSmart Charities

More than 10,000 Children’s National patients and their families will benefit from pet therapy in 2021 thanks to PetSmart Charities’ support. April 30, 2021
Two therapy dogs laying down

In honor of National Therapy Animal Day, Children’s National Hospital today announced a new grant from PetSmart Charities to enhance the hospital’s Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program. The grant supports the program’s two on-staff therapy dogs, as well as the recruitment and management of volunteer dog handler teams.

The Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program promotes healing in children undergoing medical treatment. The program’s four-legged friends provide a healthy diversion that eases anxieties, increases confidence and encourages cooperation.

“The warm presence of our therapy animals helps our care providers quickly establish a trusting rapport, which is essential for guiding our youngest patients through their hospital experience,” says Allison Proctor, program coordinator for the Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program. “PetSmart Charities’ generous support helps us bring more therapy animals to patients than ever before.”

The new grant from PetSmart Charities builds on its long-time support of the popular program. A 2018 grant enabled the hospital to hire its first full-time program coordinator and expand the program’s volunteers from three teams to 35. Pet therapy visits increased by 480% since 2018, thanks to the support of PetSmart Charities.

“We’re proud to partner with Children’s National to expand their Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy program,” said Kelly Balthazor, community grants manager at PetSmart Charities. “We strongly believe in the benefits of the human-animal bond, and we look forward to learning more about the impact highly trained facility dog programs can have on the therapeutic interventions that help children receiving life-saving care and support at Children’s National.”

Patient care at Children’s National means treating the whole child, not just their physical injury or illness. Integrative care services like the Animal Visitation and Pet Therapy Program help to meet the unique and highly-individualized needs of young patients.

Media contact: W. Gray Turner | 443-783-2678


About Children’s National Hospital

Children’s National Hospital, based in Washington, D.C., celebrates 150 years of pediatric care, research and commitment to community. Volunteers opened the hospital in 1870 with 12 beds for children displaced after the Civil War. Today, 150 years stronger, it is among the nation’s top 10 children’s hospitals. It is ranked No.1 for newborn care for the fourth straight year and ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. Children’s National is transforming pediatric medicine for all children. In 2021, the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus will open, the first in the nation dedicated to pediatric research. Children’s National has been designated three times in a row as a Magnet® hospital, demonstrating the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty care locations in the D.C. metropolitan area, including the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs. Children’s National is home to the Children’s National Research Institute and Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation and is the nation’s seventh-highest NIH-funded children’s hospital. It is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels.

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