title with symposium

Thank you to all who attended the Therapy Animal Expo on March 7th, 2020 at the Herbert University Center on the University of North Florida campus.  Therapy Animal Coalition’s 4th Expo welcomed aspiring volunteer therapy animal handlers, already registered handlers and the facilities and organizations that want or have therapy animal programs. 

The Expo was open to the public and offered informational workshops and speakers to help those new to the field or those wanting to expand their knowledge.







Want to learn about the 2021 Expo? Give us a shout!!

Please enter your name.
Please enter a message.

Poster Pet Photo Contest Winners!

Congratulations to Elvis, our Poster Pet Photo Contest Winner.  You will see his face on all the marketing materials for our 2020 Expo.  His human, Hanaa Habashi raised over $1800 through this fundraiser.  

Elvis - Poster Pet Photo Contest Winner

And not to be forgotten, special thanks to Phoebe (with human Kelly May) and Rudy (with human Ellen Chiafair) who came in 2nd and 3rd respectfully.  

Exhibit Hall

There are several built-in breaks in the agenda to make time for attendees to visit the exhibit hall.  All the local therapy animal programs are represented.  The exhibit hall allows attendees to interact with onsite vendors who offer various pet-related products and services.



Dr. Aubry Fine
Author of the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy

Aubrey Fine

Dr. Aubrey Fine is a native of Montreal, Canada. He received his graduate degree from University of Cincinnati in 1982. Dr. Fine has been on the faculty at California State Polytechnic University since 1981 and is presently a Professor Emeritus and a licensed psychologist. In 2001, Dr. Fine was presented the Wang Award given to distinguished professors within the California State University system (23 Universities).


Aubrey has been recognized by numerous organizations for his service and dedication to children, animals and the community. In July of 2016, he received the William McCulloch Award for Excellence in HAI Education and Practice from the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations, in Paris, France. Additionally, he was awarded the Educator of the Year in 1990, from the Learning Disability Association of CA, as well as receiving the 2006 CA Poly Faculty Award for Community Engagement.


Aubrey’s primary research interests relate to the psycho-social impact of human animal interactions and animal assisted interventions, social skills training and children with ADHD, and resilience in children. Dr. Fine is the author of several books including Our Faithful Companions, Parent Child Dance, Therapist's Guide to Learning and Attention Disorders, Fathers and Sons, The Total Sports Experience for Children, Give a Dog Your Heart, The Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy (new 5th edition released in July 2019) and Afternoons with Puppy. He also has had a featured monthly column in Dog Fancy Magazine on the human animal bond entitled the Loving Bond. He has been a guest on numerous national TV and Radio Shows including on programs on ABC, Discovery Network, KTLA, NPR, PBS, Fox and CNN. His work has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, People magazine, LA and N.Y. Times. He was noted as one of the pioneers in Animal Assisted Therapy in a March issue of the NY Times. Dr. Fine is the chair of the Human Animal Bond Advisory Committee of Pet Partners as well as the past chair of the steering committee on Human Animal Interactions for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Rev. Elizabeth Teal
Animal-Assisted Therapy Expert

rev lizzie garden bbuuc

Reverend Elizabeth Teal thought she was going to grow up to be an ethologist focusing on interspecies relationships, but along the way became a monk and an interspiritual interfaith minister instead. She is president of Giving Paws and the Spiritual Director for The Ministry of Animals. She maintains a private practice in interspecies / interspiritual counseling. She is also available for workshops and speaking engagements. Past credits include: Training Director and Consultant for Pattes Tendue (headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland); coordinator of the ASPCA’s Visiting Pet Program & assisting in the 9/11 response; sitting on Delta Society’s first Pet Partners National Committee; and handling Tomi, the first installed Canine Guardian ad Litem in the state of Florida. She is committed to equity, justice and compassion in all our relationships, and blogs daily at MinistryofAnimals.org.


Kim Bissing

Orlando Health
Kim is the Pet Therapy Coordinator for Orlando Health.  She has been a professional dog trainer for over 15 years in central florida. She volunteered with her first therapy dog about 15 years ago when an elder client came into the vet clinic looking for a way to get a dog to visit his terminally ill wife in hospice.  She now teaches dogs and handlers the skills needed to become a successful team and is a tester/observer with Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
She currently oversees about 86 pet therapy teams while screening new potential volunteers, teaching therapy classes and oversees the placement, coordination and training of therapy dogs. She is an experienced speaker who loves to share her passion and knowledge about animal assisted therapy.
kim bissing
Wolfson Childrens Hospital

Kathy Burns

Wolfson Children's Hospital

Kathy has been a volunteer handler in animal-assisted activities for five years. She and her 6-pound Yorkshire Terrier Libby are registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. They visit at Wolfson Children's Hospital; with the Caring Canines at Mayo Clinic; JAX Paws at Jacksonville International Airport; and are a certified Crisis Response Comfort Team with HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response.

When in Baltimore seeing family, they also visit at Genesis Healthcare, a nursing home facility. Kathy was one of the founding members of Therapy Animal Coalition and served as Board Secretary for two years. She is the president-elect of the Wolfson Children's Hospital Auxilliary.

Samantha Hodges, Chris & Dale Dunn, Jennifer Pfeiffer

Samantha Hodges
Chris & Dale Dunn
Jennifer Pfeiffer

Pet Partners of North Florida

These four experienced handlers all volunteer with their mini-horses and make quite a team.  Together they have over 10 years of experience and are an important part of establishing the equine therapy arm of the nonprofit, Pet Partners of North Florida.

Maggie Marshall

Maggie Marshall

Maggie Marshall Dog Training

Maggie Marshall is the owner of MMDT Services, LLC located at 7060 103rd Street, unit 113 in Jacksonville. She has been a professional dog trainer for 10 years. Maggie boasts a certification in dog training from Animal Behavior College as well as a Certification of Professional Dog Trainer and is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant. Maggie is a mentor trainer for Animal Behavior College and a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. Maggie has been featured on the local news, won Best Trainer in the City by Jacksonville Magazine, is the official trainer for Woofgang in Fleming Island, and comes highly recommended by many vets and dog professionals in the area. Maggie offers private in-home sessions for anything from housetraining to bites and has many unique group classes at her facility.


Jim Monahan, M.Ed.

Community Hospice & Palliative Care

Jim coordinates community engagement and referral activities for this large, well established hospice that serves approximately 1300 patients a day and has been providing excellent care since 1979.

Jim possesses unique experience of leadership positions in hospice operations, census development, marketing and clinical services. Experience in innovative program development, sales team training and patient care services.

Jim is an experienced public speaker and trainer throughout United States and internationally (Barbados, Portugal, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and England).


Stephanie Perkins
Tallahassee Memorial Hospital

Stephanie Perkins is the Director of Animal Therapy at Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy. When a young Australian Shepherd came into her life in 2000 and taught her the magic of the human-animal bond, she began the journey from dog owner, to animal therapy team, to Director of Animal Therapy.

Stephanie has a great understanding of the human-animal bond and how to utilize that relationship in harmonious interventions that benefit all participants. Combining her deep affection and respect for animals and people, Stephanie directs very successful Animal-Assisted Intervention programs for health care, educational and community settings. Stephanie also screens potential volunteer teams, teaches the animal therapy skills classes and oversees the placement, coordination and training of therapy animal teams. 


Michele Pich
Shreiber Family Pet Therapy at Rowan University

Michele is the assistant director of the Shreiber Family Pet Therapy program at Rowan University.  She was formerly an Adjunct Professor of Law and Justice studies and Assistant Director of the Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. She is also an Instructor and Grief Counselor at the University of Pennsylvania, and the President and Founder of Sundog Research and Support, LLC. Michele earned her M.S. in Clinical Psychology with a forensic concentration at Drexel University, and her M.A. in Criminal Justice at Temple University. She has 17 years of experience working in the justice system including as a mental health counselor, research assistant, and research counselor. She is sole author of a textbook chapter, co-author of multiple academic journal articles, and Co-Principal Investigator on a research grant looking at misconduct in incarcerated mentally ill offenders. Michele has been part of the National Dog Show Dog Ambassador team with her dog, Vivian.

Steve Piscitelli

Steve Piscitelli

Growth & Resilience Network

Steve's communities have included classroom teaching, workshop facilitation, songwriting and music recoring, video production, writing and publishing, podcasting, pet therapy, local event develoment, family, beach walkers and kayakers, faith based groups, discussion groups, and friends gathering for benchmark celebrations.

Session Descriptions


Whether you are new to pet therapy, are a seasoned volunteer, or work at a facility/organization wanting or hosting a therapy animal program, The Therapy Animal Expo has sessions for all!  


Morning Keyonte:
The State of Animal Assisted Interventions: A New Paradigm Shift for the Future

Dr. Aubrey Fine

The field of human–animal interactions (HAI) and, more specifically, animal assisted interventions (AAI) has greatly evolved over the past half century. Our association with animal companions and health has a long history. Specifically, the field of AAI is becoming a more recognized form of complementary therapy. Both areas of investigation and practice have evolved from mainly misunderstood/sensationalized relationships between humans and animals and have emerged as more legitimate fields of study and service. What was once first thought of as somewhat novel and unusual is now generating more enthusiasm not only by the general public but also by the growing numbers of interdisciplinary scientists and practitioners interested in studying and applying the inherent value of human animal interactions.


The field of animal assisted interventions is quickly approaching a paradigm shift, adjusting its image to incorporate more evidence-based research and aligning its purpose for the new future. This presentation will address the contemporary critical issues that confront the field today. The presentation will include a brief overview of the major milestones that the field has undergone. Attention will be given to highlighting several critical issues including the state of research in the field, suggestions for fostering best clinical practices and explaining why and how they work as well as guidelines for animal welfare. The presentation will conclude with Dr. Fine’s perceptions for the field’s future trajectory, which will include the need for a shift in public policy and acceptance.

Learning Objectives

    Participants will be able to:

  • Be aware of the critical issues and opportunities facing the field of Animal Assisted Therapy in 2020.
  • Understand the state of research providing the evidence to support AAT practice and the challenges in performing research in this area of practice.
  • Be motivated to apply clinical best practices in AAT and insure adherence to guidelines of human and animal welfare.
  • Develop an understanding of the future trajectory of the field and the role of the counseling professional in the future of AAT.

Lunch Keynote:
What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Rev. Elizabeth Teal

We love our companion animals and we believe, with lots of personal evidence, that they love us... but what if love is not all we need? How the words we use in Animal Assisted Interventions can help, harm or heal.

Learning Objectives

    Participants will be able to:

  • Be aware of the language we use when engaged in AAT.
  • Identify what wording is inclusive of the intersectionalities of individual experiences, cultures and species.
  • Learn languaging that can move all AAT into the most effective outcomes, regardless of modality, location or population.
  • Understand and experience the differences between narration and experiences in all animal assisted interventions.


SESSION 1 --- 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

SESSION 2 --- 1:30 PM - 2:15 PM

SESSION 3 --- 2:30 PM - 3:15 PM

Thank you to our sponsors!

This event would not be possible without the support of our partners.  We are honored to have these organizations walking alongside us as we continue to help people share the healing love of pets!