Seattle Children's Hospital is teaming up with PetSmart to help fund the hospital's animal assisted activities program that will provide patients with access to canine comfort teams. Animal Assisted Therapy at Seattle Children's Presented by PetSmart Paws for Hope kicks off today, with PetSmart funding the program at a commitment of $157,500 over five years. "At PetSmart, we know the healing power of pets and the positive impact they have on kids," said David Lenhardt, chief executive officer for PetSmart. "Animal assisted therapy offers a healthy diversion from the usual hospital routine and an opportunity for social interaction, which we know are important components to the healing process. We're proud to partner with Seattle Children's Hospital who shares this same belief." Support from PetSmart will allow Seattle Children's Hospital to grow its animal assisted activities program from 12 therapy dog teams to 18 dog teams over the next few years. This increase will result in hundreds of more children receiving the comfort of animal assisted therapy during their visit to the hospital. "We are so grateful for this new collaboration with PetSmart," said Lynel Westby, director of patient and family support services at Seattle Children's Hospital. "More patients and families will experience the warm, loving distraction and joy that comes from a special dog and handler team visit. We know that having a dog visit is calming for patients, families and staff. It changes the whole atmosphere in the room and takes the focus off of the hospital experience. It becomes all about the dog and child or teen and their positive connection." This is the eighth PetSmart Paws for Hope partnership of its kind between PetSmart and a hospital pet therapy program. Existing programs include Phoenix Children's Hospital, Orlando Health, Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, SickKids Hospital Toronto, St. Louis Children's Hospital, Children's Health Dallas and Hospital Español Auxilio Mutuo in Puerto Rico.
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 the creation of the PetSmart Paws for Hope in 2014. 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.About Seattle Children's Hospital Three simple words define Seattle Children's Hospital, Foundation and Research Institute - Hope. Care. Cure. Together, the three deliver superior patient care, advance new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and serve as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho - the largest region of any children's hospital in the country. Consistently ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children's Hospital specializes in meeting the unique physical, emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. For more than 100 years, the hospital has been dedicated to providing top-quality care to every child in who needs it, regardless of the family's ability to pay. Seattle Children's Hospital and Research Foundation gathers community support and raises funds for Seattle Children's Hospital and Seattle Children's Research Institute. Located in downtown Seattle's biotech corridor, Seattle Children's Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention and bioethics, among others.