WHAT WE DO
It may seem like a simple mission, "to help grow the number of therapy animal teams". How do we fulfill our mission? By also fulfilling our vision: to become the leading resource for sharing the healing love of pets. Let's break down our mission statement and help you understand what it is we actually do...
EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON HOW TO BECOME A THERAPY ANIMAL TEAM
Our first couple years saw the development of our Therapy Animal Expo and the Speaker Series. The purpose of these events is to provide a forum for people to learn more about how to become a team, and for already registered teams to find continuing education. We continue to work on getting more news stories about the wonderful work our therapy animal teams are doing in an effort to drive more interest in doing pet therapy. To further our mission moving forward, we have partnered with UNF to expand the 2019 Therapy Animal Expo. We are working on a series to educate professional dog trainers about the type of training needed to help prepare dogs for therapy work. In that partnership, we hope to target dedicated handlers who are already focused on training their pet. We are also working on a new series of informational meetings to help explain the process of becoming a team.
FACILITATE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES FOR REGISTERED TEAMS
We have wonderful working relationships with many of the local therapy animal programs from hospitals, to nursing homes to the courthouse. We have offered to list volunteer opportunities on our Community Facebook Group to help these facilities and organizations recruit new teams. Dozens of volunteer placements have been facilitated by this partnership. With funding, we will develop a volunteer database that will streamline the process and help to keep all the volunteer opportunities accessible. Currently, many registered teams are not using Facebook or miss a listing because they don't use Facebook often enough. Our volunteer database will give the facilities and organizations the ability to edit their own listing to include special requirements and make changes themselves as updates become necessary. By having the ability to edit their own submission, they are not dependent on our volunteer power to make such changes. Registered Therapy Animal Teams that are members of Therapy Animal Coalition will have access to this database to find just the right place to volunteer. It will have searchable parameters for type of environment or distance from home to make the choices even easier. Stay tuned as we work toward making this tool a reality.
ASSIST FACILITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO START THERAPY ANIMAL PROGRAMS
If a hospital or school wants to start a therapy animal program, there are no resources available currently to guide them. There are some white papers written by universities, some lists made by other organizations, but no tangible guide to how it should be done and how it should be done responsibly. In the past several years, even before we were an official 501(c)3, several of us on the board have helped advise different local organizations about starting a therapy animal program. Some of the organizations we've consulted with are: Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, Brooks Rehabilitation, St. Vincent's, Baptist South, Jacksonville Airport, Nemours Children's Specialty Care, Oak Hill Academy, Buddy Break, UF Health, and numerous elder care facilities. Once we have the funding, we plan to develop tools via an interactive website for any facility or organization to have a road map to starting a therapy animal program. We will pull in experts from around the country and put together best practices for hospitals and schools and all the different types of programs. With our UNF partnership we will be part of research that will help inform the development of these resources. As this is a large endeavor, we expect this project to take 18 months once we have the funding. In the meantime, we are continuing to assist local groups to start programs via a consulting paradigm. We are all volunteers, so this is currently a volunteer process.
"Animals stimulate us not only by touch, but by some deeply buried aspect of nature within us, a connection to part of something greater, more healthy, more whole." -- Peter Levine