HIP Heals

The Healing Power of Animals

For over twenty-five years, Hand in Paw has improved the health and well-being of individuals through visits with Animal-Assisted Therapy Teams. Animals have a keen sensitivity to human emotion and have the capacity to provide comfort through gentle interactions that provide a myriad of benefits. The simple act of petting an animal creates an automatic relaxation response by lowering heart rate, decreasing blood pressure, and providing a sense of calm and comfort.

HIP Therapy Teams provide therapeutic visits in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and early intervention organizations. Animal- Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities are two methods HIP teams utilize to enhance health and wellness and reduce stress.



Animal- Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a therapeutic intervention directed by a health care professional - treatment goals and progress are monitored and documented over a period of time.

  • A Physical Therapist incorporates brushing a dog’s fur, grasping small treats, or walking alongside a dog to improve fine motor skills and joint movement in patients.
  • A Speech Therapist may work with a child and a Therapy Team by asking the child to verbalize cues for a Therapy dog to sit, stay, fetch, etc.



Animal- Assisted Activities (AAA) are more informal and do not require the direction of a health care professional. Specific treatment goals are not planned for AAA visits; however, they provide opportunities to enhance quality of life while creating positive emotions.

  • Therapy Teams visit with nursing home residents to reduce loneliness and encourage socialization.
  • HIP Teams visit colleges and businesses in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa to boost morale and provide stress relief and reduce anxiety.