Animal Assisted Therapy

The Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program is a collaboration between the WCH Foundation’s Arts in Health program and the Paediatric Rehabilitation Department at the Hospital.

Children who have experienced a serious injury or illness are supported by the Paediatric Rehabilitation Department, and AAT is another ‘tool’ the staff can access to form part of a patient’s rehab program.

Highly trained dogs and handlers from the Delta Society visit the Hospital twice a week. While playing with the therapy dogs, patients work on several different skills. For example, they use their fine motor skills when taking the dog’s leash on and off, their voice to instruct the dog, and develop their own skills in walking, running and throwing when playing throughout the session.

Patients who engage with therapy dogs also experience a reduction in stress and anxiety, gain physiological and social benefits, and improve their communication and social interaction to help them recover sooner.

For WCH patient Sienna, AAT formed an integral and much-loved aspect of her rehabilitation after she was diagnosed with Epiglottitis, a condition that caused multiple-organ failure.

Harper helped her to walk again and eased her anxiety.

Sienna’s mum Lilia said AAT brightened her daughter’s spirits and she always looked forward to the session with Harper.

Animal Assisted Therapy at the WCH.

Sienna enjoys her session with therapy dog Harper.

The dogs and handlers are accredited through the Delta Society and are fully trained to work in a hospital setting. They undertake special veterinary checks to ensure they meet high infection control standards.

Read more about the WCH Foundation’s Arts in Health Program.