Healthcare &

Human Services

As Hand in Paw’s first established program, Petscription remains the largest and most broadly applied. Serving people of all ages in a diverse range of settings, Petscription improves the mental and physical well-being of people in need. Petscription applications vary by program site and by individual participant goals, but generally fall into one of two types of service:

Animal-Assisted Therapy & Animal-Assisted Activities



Goal-directed, delivered under the direction of a therapist or other practitioner, with progress tracked

  • An Occupational Therapist asks the patient to grip a brush, and brush the therapy dog from head to tail
  • A Speech Language Pathologist asks the patient to give a therapy dog a command; the dog’s handler may give a hand signal while out of the patient’s view to ensure that the dog complies
  • A behavioral therapist builds rapport with a new client via their shared love of animals, and the presence of a therapy animal reduces the client’s stress, enabling him to be more forthcoming
  • A Physical Therapist asks the patient to leave his hospital room to take a walk down the hall; the patient at first declines, but then agrees when given the opportunity to walk alongside a therapy dog. The patient walks twice as far as he did the previous day, when no therapy dog was present
  • With Therapy Teams present, a therapist in a memory care unit asks patients to reminisce about their favorite childhood pets
  • A Clinical Social Worker serving victims of child abuse encourages young clients to hug therapy animals, when hugs from humans may not yet be welcomed. The Social Worker builds rapport and learns more about the children when therapy animals are present
  • A Grief Counselor helps a client process her feelings as she is comforted by a calming therapy animal



Have goals and benefits, but are less structured and do not require the direction of a therapist or other practitioner.

  • Therapy Teams visit with patients and their family members at a cancer center, delivering a positive distraction from fear and pain
  • Children and families at a domestic violence shelter sit on the floor in the evening petting a group of therapy animals, which serves as the perfect wind-down after a stress-filled day
  • Patients at a residential substance abuse treatment center leave their rooms to visit with Therapy Teams, at which time connect with each other and with encouraging, caring handlers
  • Therapy animals snuggle with inpatients in their hospital beds, helping patients relax, and handlers leave behind pet business cards
  • A group of Therapy Teams gathers in a communal space in a hospital, encouraging patients and families to leave their rooms, socialize, and laugh
  • A Therapy Team supports a child victim of crime who must testify in court, comforting the child before and after they take the stand