Providence Animal-Assisted Activities & Therapy

"Unleashing the healing power of the human-animal bond"

Our mission

The mission of the Providence Animal-Assisted Activities & Therapy (PAAA/T) program is to share the unique benefits of the human-animal bond with the patients, staff and visitors of Providence Health System (PHS) in Olympia, Washington. We have been serving PHS since 1991.

What do PAAA/T volunteers do?

Volunteer handler-animal teams make regularly scheduled visits to the pediatric, psychiatric and medical rehabilitation units at Providence St. Peter Hospital, and to the adult and adolescent units at the chemical dependency center. We also visit with patients on other units throughout the hospital if PAAA/T services are ordered by a doctor or requested by a family member.

Why do we bring animals into a health care facility?

Animals bring comfort and a sense of normalcy to patients in the sterile atmosphere of an institutional setting. Children on the pediatric unit love to pet, hug and snuggle with our dogs as they tell us about their own pets at home, while parents welcome the distraction from worrying about their child. Our animals help speech, physical and occupational therapists on the medical rehabilitation unit to motivate patients and reach therapeutic goals. In the psychiatric unit, our animals offer patients affection and the opportunity to talk about painful emotions they may not feel comfortable sharing with human beings. At the chemical dependency center, patients enjoy a respite from their intense days of introspection, providing opportunities for play and laughter. And staff members always welcome a short break with our four-footed "therapists."

What kind of training do PAAA/T volunteer teams receive?

Handlers participate in a minimum of fifty hours of comprehensive, standards-based training to gain the knowledge and confidence necessary to work with their animals in a wide variety of settings with diverse populations. Teams then undergo a rigorous screening process during which the skills and aptitude of both the handler and the animal are evaluated. A primary goal of the evaluation is to assess the animal's enjoyment level and desire to interact with people.

PAAA/T staff and volunteers are committed to ensuring the ethical treatment, health and safety of their animals and the patients, staff and visitors they serve. All animals receive annual health screenings and are thoroughly bathed and groomed before making a visit.

For more information:

To learn more about the PAAA/T program, you may contact the coordinator by:
Phone: 360-493-7629
Send an email
Address: PAAA/T Program, 413 Lilly Road NE, Olympia, WA 98506-5166