Pet therapy expands to libraries

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

A successful initiative used in Clutha schools and aged-care homes is set to become more accessible to the wider community through public libraries.

“We’re doing these as a test to see what the demand is, therapy pets team leader Roanne Heppel-Pukehika said.

“If people like it we’d love to do more.”

Members of the public had the opportunity to pat, play with, and even read to a dog at the Lawrence and Tapanui libraries earlier in the week, and will do so again today in Milton and Owaka.

“It has been shown that interacting with animals has a powerful effect on people in reducing stress and anxiety,” Pukehika said.

“When a dementia patient lights up and interacts with an animal, or a shy kid overcomes their fear of the dog, it’s a lovely thing to see.

“It’s great companionship for the kids.”

The pets belonged to volunteers and staff members of the programme, and they were always looking for more owners and dogs.

“They’ve [the dogs have] all been monitored and tested by the SPCA to make sure they are comfortable in an environment around people and will be safe to play with.”

The programme had been rolled out in rest homes and schools over the past year and a-half, and its popularity prompted the idea it should expand.

“If it goes well we would like to use other animals as well.”