University of Kentucky- Kentucky Children’s Hospital Canine Counselors Program

    Grants and Contracts Details


    Project Description Canine Counselors Program: Very sick children from across the entire state of Kentucky are served by the University of Kentucky (UK) Canine Counselors program through University of Kentucky HealthCare (UKHC) at Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH). UKHC and KCH believe in providing the best medical care and adopting best practices for established therapeutic practices so that children have the highest standard of care. After the program’s start in 2017, Canine Counselors has grown significantly over the past four years to 32 dog and handler volunteer teams and is led by a part-time program coordinator. Therapy dog teams currently achieve certification through either Love on a Leash, Central Kentucky; Alliance of Therapy Pets; or Pawsibilities Unleashed. The training for these organizations focuses on basic obedience skills, including the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification process. The Canine Counselor teams provide support for children in different types of situations. These circumstances include helping children who are beginning to walk again when they have been hesitant to do so, eating after previously refusing, having IV lines put in without sedation, and reducing anxiety before difficult procedures. Need: Program demand among the varied clinical settings and large patient population has grown as the benefits of service have been demonstrated. Animal therapy benefits include reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression in pediatric patients. Modest funds to support Canine Counselors have come from the hospital auxiliary and grateful patients as funding is not generated through insurance reimbursement or patient fees. The UKHC/KCH Canine Counselors’ program is at a tipping point in their current growth. While the COVID pandemic has necessitated a reduction in our services, it is apparent that the need for the work of these teams will escalate significantly as patients and staff begin to come out of the prolonged period of stress and anxiety. We need to be prepared to step in as the early gatekeepers of the emotional and psychological backlash from the pandemic as we work to increase the resources available to our patients. In preparation for this, we request funding for additional specialized training for dogs and handlers for pediatric hospital therapy sessions, vests for the therapy dogs, uniforms for the handlers, and bags for the dogs to carry supplies such as leashes, hand sanitizer, etc. Goal & Target Audience: Serving the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky, KCH cares for many underserved communities with very high Medicaid payor rates – 57.8% compared to the national average of 12.8%. The 7,370 inpatient admissions include: 4,280 non-ICU floor, 680 PICU, 960 NICU, and 1,450 newborn nursery. UK Canine Counselors visit the acute and long-term inpatient areas of KCH and make weekly visits to the NICU and PICU units and the hematology and oncology infusion clinic. Visits from therapy dogs uplift the kids’ spirits and help them forget that they are in the hospital and receiving treatment for a little while. In addition, therapy teams participate in many off-site events held by KCH, including the Pediatric Cancer Survivors’ picnic, education/outreach programs, and many fundraising functions. Additionally, the Canine Counselors attend the annual “Reverse Trick or Treat” event and “Breakfast with Santa” celebration.
    Effective start/end date9/1/228/31/23


    • WHAS Crusade for Children: $4,800.00


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