Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego is teaming up with PetSmart to help fund the hospital’s pet therapy program that will provide thousands of more patients with access to canine comfort teams. PetSmart Paws for Hope at Rady Children’s will kick off today. PetSmart will fund the program at a commitment of $250,000 over five years. “At PetSmart, we believe in building partnerships that help people heal through the power of pets,” said David Lenhardt, president and chief executive officer of PetSmart. “We’re proud to partner with Rady Children’s on PetSmart Paws for Hope and look forward to watching the life-changing program grow.” Rady Children’s Canine Care Therapy Program now includes 33 volunteer dogs, which visit patients five days a week, resulting in more than 15,000 bedside visits per year. Support from PetSmart will allow the program to expand in the future and allow additional dogs to join the program. The program will expand to the following areas: Spiritual Care/Bereavement, Child Adolescent Psychiatry Program, Eating Disorder Clinic, Bernardy Center and Hospital employee and Patient Wellness programs. “We are so grateful for the incredible generosity from PetSmart, which enables us to significantly enhance our Canine Therapy program,” said Steve Jennings, senior vice president and executive director of Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Many special programs rely on community support to operate, and with this donation Rady Children’s will be better-equipped to provide the excellence in patient care we are known for nationwide.” This is the third national partnership of its kind between PetSmart and a hospital pet therapy program; existing programs include Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Orlando Health. In 2012, PetSmart teamed up with Phoenix Children's Hospital to sponsor their first animal-assisted therapy program, PetSmart Paws Can Heal. The initial launch was such a success that PetSmart expanded the program to hospitals throughout the country with PetSmart Paws for Hope, with expansion to Orlando Health earlier this year. The program creates additional pet therapy teams in hospitals and allows for more daily visits from a therapy animal for each patient. Additionally, the program provides support for the patients and their families. PetSmart plans to expand this program into at least three new hospitals across the country every year, with St. Louis Children’s Hospital, SickKids Toronto, Canada and Children’s Medical Center, Dallas kicking off later this year.