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How Therapy Animals Enrich Lives

Due to COVID-19 all AHF Pet Partners' events are temporarily suspended.

Companion animals offer humankind a vast range of gifts including:

Jake the Golden Retriever

Jake, an AHF Pet Partner.

  • Security
  • Companionship
  • Forgiveness
  • Comfort
  • Loyalty
  • Unconditional love

The AHF supports Southern California programs that understand how much these gifts enhance our lives.

In an effort to broaden the scope of the foundation’s activities to include both the medical and psychosocial arenas, we partner with area institutions to provide therapeutic and educational support through our Pet Partner and READ programs.

Therapy Dogs Help Children with Reading Education Assistance

The READ program has demonstrated that the literacy skills of children can be increased by partnering them with registered dog/owner therapy teams. The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) Program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a dog!

READ dogs are not just any dogs—they are trained and registered therapy animals that volunteer with their owners, going to schools, libraries, youth centers, detention facilities, and other locations as reading companions for children in need of literacy support.

If you would like more information about having a READ program in your Southern California school, please contact

Learn about the history and growth of the READ program and what it takes to become a READ team.

Patients Appreciate Pet Partners

Initially used in a mental health facility in the 1700s, and then again by the American Red Cross in military convalescent care after World War II, pets as therapeutic partners is a valued approach today in both the physical and psychosocial arenas.

Anyone who has felt a connection with a pet and experienced that unconditional love, understanding, and acceptance, knows the value of a pet’s companionship. These qualities make animals ideal therapeutic visitors for patients in hospitals and other medical facilities.

Connie Jankowski, former board member of the Animal Health Foundation, together with the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), established one of the nation’s first and leading pet therapy programs. Jan Vincent and her predecessor, Dr. Shirlee Brundage, have expanded and enhanced the program.

Bailey greets an assisted-living resident

Bailey, an AHF Pet Partner, greets an assisted-living resident.

CHOC tells us:

The 1990s saw the establishment of the Caring K9s pet-facilitated therapy program sponsored by the Animal Health Foundation. CHOC became one of only 50 hospitals in the nation, and the only one in Orange County, to use pets to assist in the recovery of young patients. The therapy dogs and their owners aid children in oncology and the medical and surgical wards of the hospital, as well as in the physical, occupational, and speech therapy departments. Since 1994, the unconditional affection of these canine volunteers has raised the spirits of sick children and provided needed escape from hospital and treatment routines.

The Animal Health Foundation has sponsored over 140 therapy animal teams in the Southern California area.  We are a community partner of Pet Partners(formerly known as Delta Society) and use their screening protocols when we evaluate interested pet owners, with their pets, who would like to volunteer as AHF Pet Partners.

Animal Health Foundation Pet Partner teams are currently visiting over 100 facilities including: acute care, assisted living, hospice, rehabilitation, and schools or libraries in four Southern California school districts. AHF Pet Partner teams also participate in special events and community outreach projects.

To learn how you and your pet can become an Animal Health Foundation Pet Partner in Southern California, please contact

Make a donation to AHF Pet Partners.

What We Look For in a Pet Partner Team

There are certain characteristics we look for in our therapy dog team. Learn more about what we are looking for from the team as a whole, the dog, and the handler in this document.

For more information on what makes an ideal therapy dog read “Therapy Dogs – Born or Made?” by trainer Patricia McConnell.

Facilities: Apply For Team Visits

Due to COVID -19 all AHF Pet Partners’ events are temporarily suspended.

We are happy to provide Pet Partner teams to visit Southern California assisted living facilities, acute care facilities, schools, libraries, hospice and other medical facilities.

If you would like a Pet Partner team to visit your facility, please download our Pet Partners Facility Application.

Fill out the form and return it to us by email, fax, or regular mail:

  • Email
  • Fax: 800-939-0936
  • The Animal Health Foundation (AHF)
    25422 Trabuco Road
    Suite 105-201
    Lake Forest, CA 92630
History of Therapy Pets

There are certain characteristics we look for in our therapy dog team. Learn more about what we are looking for from the team as a whole, the dog, and the handler in this document.

The use of pets in therapeutic environments has a long history. Enjoy this article on Today’s Animal Health Sept-Oct 1978 to learn more.

For more information about our program CLICK HERE.

Your donation helps to support the work of our Pet Partner and READ programs. Help us bring pet therapeutic and educational support services to our community in Southern California.

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