Pet Therapy Services at UH Rainbow
The Pet Pals program at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital uses animal-assisted therapy to enhance healing for patients, families and staff. The program, which is managed through UH Volunteer Services, got its start in 1989 by a UH Rainbow Child Life Specialist and a rabbit named Bo (short for Rainbow). After seeing the positive impact that Bo had on patients and families and investing in significant research, program and policy development, the official Pet Pals program was founded in 1992 with Bo and three pet therapy dogs on the team.View our photo gallery
Today, Pet Pals has grown to include more than 100 dogs of nearly every breed, one domestic cat and a pony. This vibrant troupe makes visits throughout the UH health system, imparting healing to patients and families and providing emotional support for staff. The volunteer dogs are handled by their owners in the hospital and travel to various floors to interact with children, parents and staff at random. Only therapy dogs who have undergone stringent screening and have been approved to visit with children are permitted to visit patients at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s.
In the last few years, UH has added facility dogs to the program. The facility dogs are owned by UH and work full-time alongside an employee, who can target their efforts to maximize their therapeutic impact with children, parents and staff. Currently, facility dogs are assigned to work with child life specialists in the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute and in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at UH Rainbow. Two other facility dogs are assigned to work in the UH Breen Women's Health Pavilion at UH Seidman Cancer Center and UH Volunteer Services.
Mobile Aquarium Therapy (MAT)
When the pandemic began in 2020, the main corps of Pet Pals were sidelined from working in the hospital. But during this time, the program added Mobile Aquarium Therapy (MAT) – a rolling aquarium with a bright GloFish named Skittles that traveled room to room visiting children at UH Rainbow. Though born out of necessity, the MAT program was so popular that it continued after regular animal therapy resumed in April 2021.
Pet Pals in the Community
Pet Pals is a much sought-after program in the community. The program hosts a summer reading series with the Cuyahoga County Public Library System, visits local colleges and universities for de-stress sessions, and attends a number of other community events.
Learn More About Pet Pals
Find out more about the Pet Pal program, how to volunteer, therapy animal requirements, and how to get your pet certified as a therapy animal.Learn More