Northside Hospital March 19, 2015

Northside Hospital is proud to announce the introduction of its pet therapy program. The program involves volunteer handlers and their pet dogs visiting all of the medical units in the hospital during the week, as well as on evenings and weekends. The handlers check in at the nursing desk to inquire if there are any patients or families who might like a visit from one of the dogs. Restrictions on visitations include isolation rooms and those who are allergic.

The dogs that come to Northside Hospital are part of Therapy Dogs International (TDI) Chapter 256. TDI was started in 1976 and is the oldest registering organization. The main office is in Flanders, NJ. There are over 24,000 registered TDI dog/handler teams within the United States/Canada. TDI Chapter 256 was founded in 2012 as the local chapter in Pinellas County and has over 80 members. Some of the locations are local members visit include Bay Pines VAHCS, Ronald McDonald House, All Children's Hospital, The Kidz Club, St. Petersburg Library System, High Point Elementary School, and USF St. Pete. All teams undergo an evaluation by a TDI evaluator, and once they pass are registered and insured. TDI registers any breed of dog.

There are currently nine dogs visiting the hospital, ranging from a Yorkie/shih tzu mix named Taco, to a Bernese mountain dog named Mia. The program has been running since the first week of March, and so far has been well received by not only the patients and visitors, but by the hospital staff as well.