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Pet Therapy - Compassion Unleashed 
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.



  Program Brochure

  Additional Details

Registration Options

  Process for Joining the Program

The following is a note that we received from a patient's family. We often never know how we touch the lives of people we visit.

"My 95 year old mother passed away on March 3, 2009, 2 days after having surgery for a fractured hip. My mom loved animals, but especially Goldens, as that was the last dog she owned. What joy you brought her just two days before her departure from this earth."

  • 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 more than 20 teams visiting most of the hospitals, 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—Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society), Therapy Dogs International, or Alliance for Therapy Dogs (formerly Therapy Dogs Inc.).

  • Q: Can St. Mary's help cover the costs required to get registered?
    A: Yes, St. Mary's has a scholarship program intended to assist Madison-area teams interested in Pet Therapy. The scholarship is open to all, as it is intended to help cover some of the additional costs incurred by pet therapy volunteers. 
    Download the scholarship application (.pdf)

  • Q: Are there set times that I need to bring my pet in to visit?
    A: Teams can set either flexible or structured schedules during weekdays, weeknights and/or weekends. Teams are expected to visit at least once per month.

  • 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. 

St. Mary's Hospital     700 South Park Street     Madison, WI 53715-0450     (608) 251-6100
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