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Hundreds of UEA students meet furry friends at dog therapy pilot

Fri, 06 Jun 2014

Seven PAT dogs and their volunteer owners visited University of East Anglia yesterday (Thursday) as part of a pilot to introduce a UEA Pets as Therapy (PAT) Club for students.

Students, particularly those with a disability, chronic or mental health problems, or who feel isolated, were invited by organisers to meet the PAT teams and more than 300 people attended on the day.

UEA PAT Club is a new concept and aims to offer an opportunity for individuals to gain acceptance, find friendships and to meet a non-judgemental listener. Regular interaction and therapeutic involvement with animals can offer these benefits and enhance general wellbeing.

This was the second of two pilot days for the scheme, established between Pets As Therapy volunteer Carol Adam, Susan Peters Corbett in UEA's International Student Advisory Team and Debbie Sands, a UEA Disability Advisor.

Susan Peters Corbett said: "The benefits of PAT dogs are well known and we are delighted that Pets As Therapy are working with us to trial this. We hope by testing the possibility of introducing a UEA PAT Club, we can provide a therapeutic medium for the recovery of self-esteem, help lonely or depressed students to feel less isolated and enhance the wellbeing of vulnerable students or those with mental health problems and exam stress."

Carole Adam, a Pets As Therapy voluntary area coordinator for the national charity, which provides therapeutic visits to establishments such as hospitals, hospices, special needs schools, nursing and care homes from volunteers with their pet dogs, is working with UEA on the pilot. It is hoped that if the UEA PAT Club becomes established it will be run monthly in term time by students, for students, eventually opening up to all who would like to benefit from the club.

It is also hoped that as more UEA staff become aware of the benefit of PAT dogs they may wish to have their own pet assessed and volunteer to do this work. This volunteering role offers staff the opportunity to experience the joy of helping others as well as benefitting the students.

For more information about volunteering for Pets As Therapy, visit www.petsastherapy.org or call 01844 345445.