Pet Therapy

pet therapy

What is Pet Therapy?

According to the Therapy Dogs International website, the primary objective of the therapy dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship to increase emotional well-being, promote healing, and improve the quality of life for those who interact with the therapy dog. “Four-footed therapists give something special to enhance the health and well-being of others. It has been clinically proven that through petting, touching, and talking with animals, patients’ blood pressure is lowered, stress is relieved, and depression is eased.” (

At SCS, we believe that having an opportunity to interact with our amazing therapy dogs provides a calm, centering experience in a stressful week or semester. Students meeting with the dogs report that they feel accepted, loved, and cheered by the animals’ unqualified affection and warmth.

Meeting with a therapy dog offers a chance for hugs, pets, perhaps a doggy kiss, and lots of non-verbal sharing. Students may interact minimally or may find themselves on the floor for a gentle romp. Ms. O’Leary, the handler, will help with those who may be “dog-shy” and of course, will always be there to assure that all interaction is safe for everyone involved. She will also provide answers to any questions about her dogs, their training, and the role of therapy dogs that may occur.

Who may benefit from Pet Therapy?

Any student who likes dogs or feels peace and connection in interacting with animals may benefit from attending a Pet Therapy event. Those with anxiety, depression, loss issues, loneliness and homesickness may especially benefit. But you do not need to have a “mental health concern” to visit and enjoy a session with our Therapy Dogs—any student stressed by a demanding schedule, distance from loved ones, or perhaps especially missing a family pet companion is welcome at Pet Therapy events.

What Pet Therapy Services does the SCS offer to students?

  • Open hours at SCS are available each week (times may vary by semester—for this semester’s open Pet Therapy hour, call 529-4634 and ask the receptionist for the currently posted Pet Therapy hour and day.) No appointment is needed to attend the open therapy sessions—just come, and bring a friend.

Additional services:

  • Dog Days at Mid-Terms
  • Furry Finals
  • Residence Hall visits
  • Student Organization visits

Are the dogs certified and insured?

TDI dogs are temperament-tested and formally trained in the role of Therapy Dog. Ms. Mary O’Leary is our SCS handler, and she brings years of extensive experience in rescuing, training, testing and handling therapy dogs. Her current dogs are young English Setters. The dogs are temperament tested, certified, and insured as members of TDI. Watch for the bright red vests!

Therapy Dogs International, Inc. 
88 Bartley Rd.
Flanders, New Jersey 07836 
Telephone (973)252-9800 

For larger events, we also may include some dogs from the Hamilton Dog Training Club and other local dog training organizations. These dogs are well-trained obedience and agility dogs who attend these events as volunteers, with their handlers.

What is the cost for Pet Therapy services?

All Pet therapy services are provided on a volunteer basis.  There is no cost for attending the one-to-one open therapy hours at the SCS.  Similarly, attending a major Pet Therapy event like Furry Finals is cost-free, as is arranging a visit to a campus residence hall or officially sanctioned student organization.

What do I need to arrange for the dogs if they visit my Residence Hall or Student Group?

We ask that the organizer provide a public space that is easily accessible. You need only provide a bowl of fresh, clean water for the dogs and for indoor spaces, we ask that there be a carpet/rug for the dogs to sit on. The safety of our dogs is paramount so we ask that the location be free of anything dangerous to animals and that those attending be sober and maintain a welcoming atmosphere for the animals. The handler will remain with the dogs at all times during a visit.

We reserve the right to cancel a visit or leave an event early if there is any question of safety for the handler or the animals. 

How do I request a visit from the Pet Therapy Dogs?

Click Here For: Pet Therapy Events Request Form

Note: Visits are limited to be sure our dogs are stress-free and bring their best energy to each event. Please provide a 2 week notice when requesting your reservation for best chance of successfully arranging your chosen date and time. The dogs typically visit residence halls and organizations in late afternoon and early evenings, for 1-1.5 hour time periods. We request that you guarantee a minimum of 10 people attending your event.