Animal assisted physical rehabilitative therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at University Hospital offers a unique program that uses animals to assist in therapy provided by certified therapeutic recreational specialists.

Upstate Rehabilitation at the Downtown Campus
Upstate University Hospital - Downtown Campus
Rm. N2104,
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
Map & directions
Phone: 315 464-6543
Fax: 315 464-4753
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7:30am-4:30pm

The specially trained animals and their handlers are volunteers through the Sunshine Friend's Inc. They work with the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation recreational specialists in providing therapy that helps healing of the mind, body and spirit.

The dog's natural desire to give love and acceptance, and their drive to please encourages the patients to work harder in therapy. Patients concentrate on how they can interact with the dog and have fun. Using dogs is a way to include families in the therapy sessions.

Some comments from patients and families:

"My son showed much more enthusiasm about moving, and the pet showed a means to an end. If he wanted to pet the dog, he had to move his arm to do it."

"Working with the dogs made me think about how to lean forward without losing my balance and it brightened my day!"

"Having dogs in therapy is a wonderful and rewarding experience for both family and patients."


Paul W Dunning
Paul W Dunning
315 464-8668

Education & Fellowships

  • BS: SUNY College at Cortland, 1995

Clinical Interests

  • Geriatrics, Peds

Donna I Sims, CTRS
Donna I Sims, CTRS
315 464-8668

Education & Fellowships

  • BS: SUNY Brockport, 1988


Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Clinical Interests

  • Animal Assisted Therapy / Activities