Pet Therapy Dogs Are Back!

By Jonesa Rodriguez - April 12, 2021

It’s no secret that the volunteers at Moffitt Cancer Center are essential to the cancer center, especially the four-legged canines in the Pet Therapy program. On any given day, one could walk into Moffitt and be graced by the furry companions, who are there to bring a little joy and comfort to patients.

photo of pet therapy cutouts at Moffitt
Cardboard cutouts of the pet therapy pups were placed around Moffitt to spread a little joy while the pups were on a hiatus

But due to COVID-19, the pet therapy pups have been on a hiatus since last March. Now, a year later, Moffitt is opening its doors to volunteers again, including our loving canine companions.

“Patients and team members alike are anxious for the return of the Pet Therapy program,” said LaWanda Byrd, director of Volunteer Services at Moffitt. “Pet therapy volunteers have provided videos and pictures during the suspension to continue to share the love and happiness that the program offers.”

In their absence, life-size cardboard cutouts of the pups were placed around the cancer center to give patients and team members a little piece of happiness the puppies would usually bring.

With much anticipation for the dogs to return, Moffitt has put in place a few new COVID-19 safety precautions.

image of pet therapy pup Kelly
Pet therapy pup Kelly sporting her Moffitt volunteer harness

“Unfortunately, when the program returns, face-to-face contact is prohibited. Dogs are not allowed to be near a patient’s face,” said Byrd. “All facial licking and kissing must be avoided.”

And while the volunteer pups are usually allowed to visit those in inpatient rooms, Byrd says that room visitation will remain suspended until further notice.

Patients and team members can still interact and pet their furry friends, as Moffitt will be offering hand sanitizer before and after all visits.

Moffitt is also requiring all dogs to be bathed and brushed within 24 hours of a scheduled pet therapy visit. And just like their human counterparts, if a pup is feeling ill or stressed, they must stay home.

The pet therapy dogs, 43 in total, will officially be back on campus starting April 19.

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