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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions


A. Planning

Thorough preparation is key to the successful implementation and continuation of a PFT program. The first step involves contacting knowledgeable sources such as veterinarians, the humane society, and other institutions that have had experience with PFT programs. The ultimate success of each individual program will, however, be dependent upon how enthusiastically it is implemented by the staff of the institution involved (Cusack and Smith, 1984).

Arkow (1993) believes there are five key elements that will help ensure the program’s success and survival:


  1. SUPERVISION: One person must be assigned overall program responsibility and especially for the animals in any facility. All other personnel must be made aware that the program is on-going and a necessary part of the facility’s operations. Special provisions must be made for weekend and holiday care, and for the animal to have surcease from the constant stress of human interaction. Animals must be kept under control so as to not become a nuisance.
  • KEY INDIVIDUALS: Most programs have succeeded when one or a few key persons pioneered and saw a project through. Truly successful programs establish operational systems, policies and infrastructures to carry on after these founders are gone.
  • COMMON SENSE AND REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Until therapeutic regimens and standardizations are established, common sense and realistic expectations seem to provide as good a foundation as any. Establish realistic program goals: an unstructured rash of enthusiasm can result in early personnel burnout and abandonment of the program.
  • CONSIDER THE WELFARE OF ALL INVOLVED: Animals, patients, residents who do not appreciate animals, as well as families, visitors, friends, staff, and administrative personnel must all be considered empathetically.
  • PLANNING: forethought of logically-predictable problems can avoid a lot of conflicts later.