We’ve carefully selected these animal therapy nonprofits because they’re actively working to educate, inspire, and support people while sharing the benefits of therapy animals. Nominate a notable nonprofit by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You don’t have to be a pet owner or recipient of animal therapy to know the way animals can positively affect your life and mood.
Therapy animals — including both service animals and emotional support animals — can be especially helpful to people who are differently abled, ill, living with mental health issues, or simply under significant amounts of stress.
And there are many animal therapy nonprofit organizations dedicated to exploring and supporting the human-animal bond. They take animals into hospitals and nursing homes, and lead programs to train animals and their handlers. The lives affected by these organizations and the volunteers who represent them are countless, and we’re enamored by both their cause and their dedication to it.
Pet Partners was started over 40 years ago in 1977 as the Delta Foundation. Since its founding, they’ve been working to bring the healing power of animals to people across the United States. It began with a group of five veterinarians and two doctors. Now, it’s expanded to thousands of volunteers, all dedicated to the human-animal bond.
PAWS for People
The “PAWS” in PAWS for People stands for “pet-assisted visitation volunteer services.” This organization is the largest of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic area, serving Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. It was founded by a schoolteacher who rescued a golden retriever and became a pet therapy team. When people saw what Lynne Robinson was doing, they wanted to get involved with their compassionate pets too. Now, the organization helps train and vet these teams to ensure they’re providing patients and clients with the best possible care.
The Good Dog Foundation
The Good Dog Foundation provides therapy dog interactions at 300 facilities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. It was founded in 1998 and now serves people within the healthcare system, social services, community organizations, and educational facilities. One of the organization’s most recent efforts, “Parenting, Prison, & Pups,” uses support animals to teach inmate mothers the skills of parenting. It’s a two-year research study with Pace University that hopes to support some of the 70 percent of female inmates who have children waiting for them outside prison walls.
Love on a Leash
Founded in the early 1980s in San Diego, Love on a Leash has since expanded to nearly every state in the United States, with some 2,000 volunteers supporting the organization with their pets. Their role as they see it is simple: to brighten someone’s day. To that end, they visit hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to provide support to people from all walks of life. They even take their pets to colleges during exam time to help reduce stress among the students. Always hoping to expand their reach, Love on a Leash has ample information on their website about how you can get involved or even start your own chapter of the organization in your community.
Therapy Dogs International
Therapy Dogs International (TDI) was founded in 1976 in New Jersey. Their main objective: to provide training and registration of therapy dogs and their handlers, so they’re best prepared to serve the communities in which they reside. Nearly 25,000 human-animal teams are registered with TDI, and you can see some of their stories on the organization’s website. Learn about their many roles within communities including their Disaster Stress Relief Dogs and all the ways these pets improve the lives of those around them.
Helen Woodward Animal Center
The Helen Woodward Animal Center of Southern California is most known for its adoption program, but the organization also has a thriving Pet Encounter Therapy program in the area. This program brings animals to hospitals, shelters, psychiatric units, and nursing facilities to offer comfort for the residents and patients within. The organization doesn’t stop with dogs, however, and also brings cats, rabbits, birds, and guinea pigs into the facilities too.
Human Animal Bond Research Institute
There are 80 million U.S. households that enjoy the bond between pet and family, according to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute. As their name implies, this organization is wholly dedicated to funding and sharing research to demonstrate the positive health effects of pet companionship. As well as hosting a vast online library of such research, the organization also has a robust social media presence and plenty of opportunities for people to get involved.
The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, or PATH International, is an organization founded in 1969. Initially known as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, this group of dedicated volunteers and staff work to expand the reach of horsemanship and riding benefits to people who may not otherwise have an opportunity to interact with horses. They service more than 66,000 children and adults around the world, according to their website, and also provide easy ways for interested people to find locations in their communities.
American Hippotherapy Association
Hippotherapy is the use of horses in conjunction with physical, occupational, and speech therapy programs. The American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) doesn’t only offer access to the programs putting people in contact with horses, but also educates communities and horse owners on equine assisted therapies. Professionals who wish to use hippotherapy in their practices can find introductory to advanced courses on the AHA website.
Alliance of Therapy Dogs
The Alliance of Therapy Dogs is a resource for therapy dog owners to become registered and join the many opportunities to share their bond in their communities. The organization provides registration, support, and insurance for its members. They also help animal-human teams connect with hospitals, clinics, college campuses, airports, schools, and more. We particularly like their regularly updated blog, full of advice and information.