Thank you for your interest in pet therapy! This page provides answers to some of the most important and commonly asked questions. If you have additional questions, please contact our Pet Therapy Program Coordinator— Dan Darmstadter or call 608-258-6640.
- Q: How long has St. Mary's had a Pet Therapy Program?
A: The program started in 2004 with a single team and has grown to 26 teams visiting 16 units, plus the St. Mary’s Emergency Center in Sun Prairie.
- Q: What kind of certification or registration is required?
A: St. Mary’s and many other facilities require teams to be registered with one of three national pet therapy organizations—Delta Society, Therapy Dogs International, or Therapy Dogs Inc.
- Q: Can St. Mary's help cover the costs required to get registered?
A: Yes, the St. Mary’s Foundation has been fortunate enough to receive various donations and sponsorships over the years. This has allowed the creation of a scholarship program to help offset some of the additional costs that pet therapy volunteers incur. The scholarship can cover pet therapy specific training (but not obedience training), as well as registrations fees covered by some of the national organizations mentioned above. This scholarship program is not based on financial need.
Download the scholarship application (.pdf).
- Q: Are there set times that I need to bring my pet in to visit?
A: Teams are encouraged to visit on their schedules. While some teams like to plan regular visits, others drop in as their personal time allows.
- Q: Is it possible to follow a team on a visit to learn more about the St. Mary’s Pet Therapy Program?
A: Yes, there are opportunities to shadow a team on a visit if you are interested in seeing whether you or your dog would enjoy the atmosphere at St. Mary’s.
- Q: Does a therapy dog have to be as well trained as a service dog?
A: Most of the time, dogs that participate in pet therapy are family pets; they are not expected to be as well behaved as a service dog. If your dog is obedient and is comfortable going into new and different situations, they may already be well on their way to becoming a therapy dog. For example, the video below features Hannah, a therapy dog, in her home environment.