The Pacific Animal Therapy Society
PATS was founded in 1988 by Sadey Guy, a retired nurse living on the Saanich Peninsula. In Sadey’s own words….
“I thought of the idea of a society when I retired from nursing. At that time I was quite involved with the world of pets, and had been all my life, so I was well aware of their value. I was brought up in a hospital, and from a child had visited around “my Grannies and Grandpas”, (103 of them) with my dogs and rabbits, so this was a natural interest to follow. I engaged a few friends in this venture, and P. A. T. S. was born.”
Sadey is too modest in describing the birth of PATS. She worked many long hours to establish her society as a well organized and well respected registered non-profit organization serving the local community. An important first step was to engage the interest and support of the local veterinarian community. Sadey searched out similar programs across Canada and the United States and developed an approach to assessing the animals in the program that remains in place today. Local veterinarians continue to support PATS by providing an examination and assessment as a completely free service to membership applicants.
Over almost 30 years PATS has become a well known Victoria brand – PATS members and their pets visit approximately 50 facilities and programs throughout the Victoria area and there are a handful of members in up-island communities. Through it all the people of PATS remain true to Sadey’s original intent – to bring comfort and healing to those we visit.
PATS is funded by modest membership fees and donations.
Donations to PATS are tax deductible.
PATS provides animal therapy visits in a variety of settings in the community. Animal Therapy provides a supportive, recreational, and motivational interaction between a pet animal and an individual. Most therapy animals are much loved pets with the temperament and inclination to enjoy interactions with a wide variety of individuals, and to tolerate environments outside of their usual comfort zone. Therapy visits capitalize on the animal’s natural behaviours and while the pets are expected to be responsive to their handler’s commands no special training is required other than basic obedience and good leash manners.
The pets who participate in PATS are required to pass a behavioural test administered by a veterinarian unknown to the animal prior to the test. This test is designed to assess the animal’s suitability for the program. The test does NOT confer any special status on the animal. Except at the facilities they visit, PATS pets do not have any privileges beyond those granted to any other pet in public places, on public transportation or in private buildings such as apartment blocks where the keeping of pets is restricted or prohibited.
In contrast, Service/Assistance Pets have been specifically trained to provide a one on one service to an individual with a specific need. The pets are typically highly trained and live with the individual requiring the special service. These pets are granted special status.
PATS members are young, old, employed, retired, students, or any combination of them all. What they share in common is a love of animals and people, and the good fortune to share their life with an animal that is temperamentally suited to pet therapy volunteering. Membership in PATS is a commitment, you should enjoy interacting with people of all ages and expect to visit with seniors and others experiencing health challenges. We ask you to commit to a minimum of one visit a month (averaged over a year) or approximately 12 hours.
REQUIREMENTS FOR PET VOLUNTEERS
Pets volunteering with PATS may not be fed a diet that includes raw meat, either fresh, frozen or thawed. This is a requirement of VIHA infection control and reflects concern regarding the increased potential for pathogens such as salmonella to be transmitted by animals fed a diet that includes raw meat.
PATS is also required to ensure that animals in our program are appropriately immunized. It is your responsibility to pay for the vaccines and to keep them up to date. All PATS pets must be immunized according to your veterinarian’s recommendations and must be on an effective parasite control regime. Proof of immunization is required before a pet will be accepted into the PATS program. Pets must be in good health to participate in PATS activities and annual veterinary check ups are also required with updated vaccination certificates submitted to PATS.
Basic behavioural testing is provided by local veterinarians as a pro-bono service to PATS. The test must be performed by a vet unfamiliar with your pet and PATS will authorize the appointment once the intake form has been reviewed.
Not all pets are suited for therapy volunteer work, some animals may pass the behaviour test but still be uncomfortable in unusual settings, or dislike excessive handling. It isn’t uncommon for the pet to take a little time to become accustomed to their new activity but it is important that you are aware of your pet’s stress indicators and intervene as necessary. Both members of the team should enjoy the experience!
PATS does not “certify” animals as therapy animals for the purpose of professional work. For example for therapists or counsellors who would like to have an animal as part of their therapeutic environment. The animals in the PATS program are assessed for suitability for PATS visits – there is no certification per se.