SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital - Madison's Pet Therapy Program has grown to over 20 teams since its inception in 2004. Teams visit departments throughout the hospital and the SSM Health St. Mary's Emergency Center in Sun Prairie. It is just one way the hospital enhances a patient's experience and helps to provide exceptional care. Our canine teams also provide meaningful interactions for families and staff. A visit can help reduce stress and blood pressure, ease anxiety and reduce recovery time.
What breeds of dogs could you see?
This volunteer program includes dogs ranging from as small as a Maltese to as large as a Great Dane. You never know what you might walk past.
When do teams visit?
Teams visit the hospital on a regular basis on weekdays, evenings, weekends and even holidays. Teams are assigned two to three units and will call ahead to let staff know of their visit. Staff will then put together a list of patients who would like a visit.
How to Request a Visit
Patients and families are able to request a visit through staff on the patient's unit. Staff enters the request into the hospital's computer system which automatically notifies Volunteer Services. Staff and families of patients may also request a visit by calling Volunteer Services at 608-258-6640. Upon receipt of the request, Volunteer Services will gather additional information and notify the Pet Therapy teams. All efforts will be made to honor requests, based on team availability.
How to Join the Program
Therapy dogs are obedient family pets with a good disposition, but are not service dogs like those that assist the disabled. SSM Health St. Mary's therapy teams are required to have completed a pet therapy training course and to be certified through one of multiple pet therapy organizations. Learn more about the program.
Watch this video of Hannah, a therapy dog, interacting in her home environment. Therapy dogs are not service dogs; they are just well-behaved family pets!