PetSmart Charities supports Boston Children’s Hospital’s animal assisted therapy program with $360,000 grant

Grant Will Help Double the Number of Therapy Dogs Supporting Pediatric Patients, Family and Staff From 17 To 34 Dogs, and Serve an Additional Three Satellite Locations by 2019

PHOENIX and BOSTON, 2017-May-26 — /EPR Retail News/ — Boston Children’s Hospital and PetSmart Charities today (May 25, 2017) announced that the Hospital received a $360,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, to support Pawprints, the Hospital’s 14-year-old animal assisted therapy program.

The Pawprints program, now supported by PetSmart Charities, provides a welcome diversion from patients’ normal hospital routines, giving them and their families a sense of security and normalcy, a diminished sense of isolation, and an increased level of positive communication. With the help of this generous grant, the Hospital expects to double the number of dogs participating in the program from 17 to 34 to serve thousands of patients at three satellite locations in Peabody, Waltham and the Martha Eliot Health Center by 2019.

The Hospital’s animal assisted therapy program was launched with the first Boston Children’s therapy dog, Stella, a mild-mannered yellow Labrador retriever, by her inaugural visit in 2003. Since then, there have been more than 12,000 patient visits by dozens of therapy dogs over the past 14 years.

“We’re so grateful for this generous support from PetSmart Charities,” says Carola Cadley, vice president of Corporate Development & Special Events at Boston Children’s Hospital Trust. “The emotional boost our Pawprints dog/handler teams give to our patients and their families is significant, and we’re excited to now be able to extend these services to even more patients and families around our main hospital campus, while also introducing therapy dog visits to our satellite facilities!”

Today, Pawprints pet/handler teams are selected through a careful screening process, including an interpersonal interview with the handler, an offsite behavioral evaluation, Occupational Health volunteer clearances, canine medical clearances and an on-site behavioral evaluation. In order to participate, each dog is required to be at least 2 years old, registered with a therapy dog organization, in good physical health, and current on all vaccinations, and to have a calm, consistent and obedient temperament to provide unconditional love to bedridden patients.

It is patients like Julie Milunsky, now 21, who has been treated for most of her life at Boston Children’s for a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), who benefit from this program. Most recently, she was in the hospital for her uncontrollable shoulder dislocation. After an extensive surgical procedure, she was put into a half-body cast, minimizing her range of motion and her independence. Waiting for her after the procedure was a therapy dog from the Pawprints program to greet her in her hospital room.

“It was so powerful for me because it took me out of my head, out of my anxiety and got me in the moment to realize that everything was going to be okay,” said Milunsky. “I got to focus on the dog for that moment, which ended up decreasing my pain and anxiety, both wins in my book. The Pawprints program also showed me that there are ways to interact with my own dogs at home despite my casts.”

PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, recently expanded its mission to include finding lifelong, loving homes for all pets by supporting programs and thought leadership that bring people and pets together. This new mission allows the organization to support animal welfare programs in more ways than ever before, and even reach other nonprofits, like Boston Children’s Hospital, that help connect people and pets. The new “Enhancing the Quality of Life Through Pets” grant category, open year-round for applications, supports programs that train pets to become service animals for military veterans or people with disabilities and for pet therapy programs at places such as hospitals, schools, and senior homes.

“Boston Children’s Hospital has made tremendous strides to leverage the healing power of pets and provide unconditional love to its patients, families and staff through its long-standing Pawprints animal assisted therapy program,” said David Haworth, DVM, Ph.D., and president of PetSmart Charities. “With the help of this grant from PetSmart Charities, we are thrilled to help them expand the services and smiles that this program delivers in addition to the comfort for those who need it most.”

For more information on PetSmart Charities, please visit For more information on the Pawprints Animal Assisted Therapy Program, please visit

About Boston Children’s Hospital

Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center. Its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. Today, more than 2,630 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 members of the National Academy of Medicine and 11 Howard Hughes Medical Investigators comprise Boston Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children’s is now a 415-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care. For more, visit our Vector and Thriving blogs and follow us on social media @BostonChildrens, @BCH_Innovation, Facebook and YouTube.

About PetSmart Charities®

PetSmart Charities, Inc. is a nonprofit animal welfare organization with a mission to find lifelong, loving homes for all pets by supporting programs and thought leadership that bring people and pets together.  In addition to finding homes for almost 500,000 shelter pets each year through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, PetSmart Charities provides funding to nonprofits aligned with its mission through four key areas of grant support:  Preventing Pet Homelessness; Helping Shelter Pets Thrive; Supporting the Bond Between People and Pets; and Emergency Relief and Disaster Support. Each year, millions of generous PetSmart shoppers help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities using the pin pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart stores.  In turn, PetSmart Charities efficiently uses 90 cents of every dollar donated and has become the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, donating about $300 million to date. PetSmart Charities, a 501(c)(3) organization, has received the Four Star Rating from Charity Navigator, an independent organization that reports on the effectiveness, accountability and transparency of nonprofits, for the past 14 years in a row — placing it among the top one percent of charities rated by this organization.  To learn more visit

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Source: PetSmart Inc.