Pet Therapy Helping Child Abuse Victims
At Safe Horizon, our volunteers provide special services to individuals and families facing crisis brought on by violence and abuse. Our volunteers come in all forms – including animal form.
Jimmy, a pet therapy dog, is one of our newest volunteers. Jimmy and his human partner, Renee, come from the Good Dog Foundation, a local organization that trains both animals and people to provide therapeutic support to children and adults in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other care facilities. Since June, Jimmy and Renee have made weekly visits to our Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center, providing comfort to children at the center.
What makes Jimmy a special volunteer? As a therapy-trained dog, Jimmy is used to interacting with children and adults facing traumatic times in their lives. Jimmy’s presence at our Child Advocacy Center can be especially important to children who need a gentle, non-judgmental companion who can help them begin to heal and regain their lives after abuse.
Why is Jimmy welcome at Safe Horizon?
Jimmy doesn’t judge. To a pet, it doesn’t matter how you look, what you’re wearing, or where you live. Like many pets, Jimmy accepts a person just as they are.
Jimmy can provide safe, non-threatening touch. A physically or sexually abused child may not want anyone – not even their non-offending parent – to touch them. Yet they will want to pet, hold, or even hug a dog or cat. This kind of interaction can make a significant difference for a child who otherwise would have no positive or appropriate contact.
What a child sees with Jimmy is what they get. Jimmy doesn’t "play games" – like many animals, Jimmy is direct with children, which makes it easy for them to understand what he’s doing.
Jimmy can provide a non-threatening and safe channel for communicating. A child who sees Jimmy is more likely to project their feelings and experiences onto him, because they feel communicating with Jimmy is safer than talking to another person.
Jimmy is a four-legged spa. When Jimmy comes into the Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center, children – even those who may not like pets – will watch him and his antics, and begin to feel more relaxed during the time they're at the CAC. Tests show that when pets are present, they help decrease heart rates and blood pressure among the people who interact with them. Having Jimmy around can also help increase good feelings within children at our Child Advocacy Centers, who need to have encouragement and a positive environment in order to begin healing from the effects of abuse.
We thank Jimmy and Renee for their special support, and the Good Dog Foundation for giving children facing crisis the means to find hope and healing.