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New program funds pet therapy for children with cancer


Pups Assisting with Support program helps fill an important gap for hospitals because animal-assisted therapy programs are primarily supported by philanthropy efforts

Monkey Business / stock.adobe.com

Monkey Business / stock.adobe.com

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has debuted Pups Assisting with Support (PAWS), a pilot grant program striving to improve the quality of life for hospitalized children with cancer through support from specially trained therapy dogs. The program funded $8,000 to these 6 children's hospitals to support current therapy dog programs1:

  • Children's Hospital Orange County (CHOC) - Orange, CA
    • Lois, a 4-year-old golden retriever/yellow lab mix
  • Children's National Hospital - Washington, DC
    • Company, a 3-year-old golden retriever
  • Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - St. Petersburg, FL
    • Brea, a 5-year-old yellow lab
  • Norton Children's Hospital - Louisville, KY
    • Luna, a 2-year-old black lab
  • Texas Children's Hospital - Houston, TX
    • Bailey, a 7-year-old golden retriever
    • Pinto, a 7-year-old golden retriever
    • Pluto, a 5-year-old golden retriever
    • Cohen, a 5-year-old golden retriever
    • Angus, a 4-year-old golden mix
  • UW Health Hospitals and Clinics - American Family Children's Hospital - Madison, WI
    • Cola, a 3-year-old golden doodle mix
    • Kiko, a 4-year-old golden doodle

"We're excited that this new initiative allows us to focus on the unique needs of children with cancer and their families," expressed Arif Kamal, MD, MBA, MHS, chief patient officer of the American Cancer Society.1 "By supporting children during a challenging time, therapy dogs and their handlers play a supportive role in improving the hospital environment during cancer treatment and reducing suffering. It's another way we're working to connect with families that need additional support during their cancer journey."

Throughout the 12-month grant period, the funds will go towards veterinary costs, adoption, training for the handler or staff members, food, grooming, beds, toys and enhancing or maintaining dog facilities. According to the release,1 the program is anticipated to positively affect 10,000 children suffering from cancer and their families.

From birth, therapy dogs working full-time in children's hospitals undergo intense, tailored training to offer goal-orientated, therapeutic interventions and emotional support.1 This animal-assisted therapy has a multitude of physical and mental health benefits for children. According to the University of Texas at Arlington,2 therapy dogs help to reduce anxiety associated with treatments (eg, chemotherapy), lessen depression and improve mood, enhance sleep (a critical aspect of the healing process), promote mental stimulation (which helps to combat “chemo brain”), reduce fear surrounding treatments, and more. Research conducted by the Journal of Pediatric Nursing3 revealed that animal-assisted therapy was even beneficial for controlling pain and blood pressure in hospitalized children and teenagers.


  1. American Cancer Society announces new funding for hospital therapy dogs to support children with cancer and their families. News release. American Cancer Society. September 21, 2023. Accessed September 21, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-cancer-society-announces-new-funding-for-hospital-therapy-dogs-to-support-children-with-cancer-and-their-families-301935143.html
  2. The positive effect of therapy dogs in pediatric hospital settings. University of Texas at Arlington. February 2, 2022. Accessed September 21, 2023. https://academicpartnerships.uta.edu/healthcare-nursing-online-programs/msn-pediatric-care/pcnp/therapy-dogs-in-pediatric-hospital-settings
  3. Feng Y, Lin Y, Zhang N, Jiang X, Zhang L. Effects of animal-assisted therapy on hospitalized children and teenagers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pediatr Nurs. 2021;60:11-23. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2021.01.020
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