Pet therapy volunteers and their dogs bring comfort and joy to the patients, families, and guests at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The Pet Therapy Program at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has been giving patients, families, visitors, and staff the opportunity to interact with trained dogs in a therapeutic setting. The small pet therapy team at the Children’s Hospital consists of volunteers, and all dogs are owned, loved, and trained by their owners (or “handlers”).

Why volunteer?

You’ll see the immediate effects of your work in the smiles of patients, many of whom miss their own pets at home.

There are many benefits of pet therapy include:

  • Stress relief
  • Mental stimulation
  • Improved depression and anxiety
  • Lowering of blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate
  • Positive distraction

What will I do as a pet therapy volunteer?

Handlers bring their trained and registered therapy dogs to the hospital to visit patients, families, and visitors. Each visit is customized to meet the patient’s needs. Dogs may cuddle with patients, pose for pictures, or even get up on the patient’s bed (as long as there’s a protective sheet).

Handlers supervise and guide these visits, giving their dog commands when necessary and ensuring that the interaction is a position one for all involved.

Do my dog and I need special training?

Yes. If you’re interested in participating in the Pet Therapy Program, the first step is to register your dog with one of the following therapy dog organizations:

In addition, you should have completed 20 hours of documented medical facility therapy visits before applying to our Pet Therapy Program.

When can I volunteer?

Visiting dates and times vary.

What’s the application process?

The Pet Therapy Program is popular. Before applying, please contact Megan Blashford or Tiffaney Horner, Pet Therapy Program Coordinators to check if openings are available for the Children's Hospital and Tracy Johnsen for the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

If openings are available, you will need to fill out an online application.

You’ll be required to attend a mandatory orientation and provide health screening and veterinary records for your pet. You’ll also meet with a pet therapy coordinator, who will evaluate your dog’s interaction with patients and guests.

Learn more about the application process