[Skip to Content]
Picture of dog

Pet Therapy at Upstate

At Upstate, healing comes in many forms- including the wag of a tail and the unconditional love of our pet therapy dogs.

Nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of medical care, patients & staff alike experience the warmth, healing and uplifting power that pet therapy dogs bring. With their gentle tail wagging and comforting presence, these four-legged therapists embody the spirit of compassion and acceptance.

At Upstate, we have two separate programs comprised of teams (handler & dog) who make scheduled visits with:

  1. Patients – for “Animal Assisted Therapy”
  2. Staff members for employee de-stress events
Expand all

Benefits of Pet Therapy

  • Can include improved mental health, physical health and skill improvement
  • May help motivate a patient to work on goals and they may also experience less loneliness while in the hospital
  • Can lower symptoms of anxiety, depression and sadness
  • The presence of an animal provides comfort and a needed distraction from an otherwise challenging time

Benefits of Volunteering

  • Make a positive impact on people's lives
  • Feel good about getting involved & giving back to the community
  • Connect with a diverse & supportive community; making new friends
  • Reduce stress, keep mentally stimulated

Become a Pet Therapy Volunteer

Decide which population you would prefer to visit:

We will then reach out to you and connect you with one of the two local organizations we work with for our programs. They evaluate and certify all of the volunteer teams we utilize for patient visits or employee de-stress events.

  1. Become certified by one of the two organizations we partner with.
  2. Once you and your dog have been certified, apply to volunteer at Upstate

    (We fast-track the process, and walk people through the steps which include a health clearance and background check prior to orientation.)

And then, it's off to the races for you and your dog! We will work with you to make a schedule that works for everyone.

Facts and Figures

  • We currently have 22 teams between both programs
  • Thousands benefit from Pet Therapy every year at Upstate
  • Volunteer visits take place different times of the day, 7 days a week
  • There are lots of different breeds, sizes & ages of dogs who volunteer
  • Pet Therapy is currently conducted at: Upstate University Hospital (downtown Syracuse)
  • Upstate Community Hospital (near OCC)
  • Both Upstate Cancer Centers & the GYN Oncology Clinic
  • Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital
  • Joslin Diabetes Center
  • Nappi Wellness Institute

Come "Heel" With Us

If you are interested in learning more and think your dog could be Upstate's next Pet Therapy volunteer, let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.

Updated March 2024