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PetPals

PetPals are canine and feline volunteers (and their owners) who visit elderly residents in long-term care facilities.  The PetPals volunteers are screened, trained and matched with one of 36 sites in metro Boston.  These teams bring the “healing power of pets” to over 650 elders every week.

A PetPals volunteer with a dog visits with a senior

Why PetPals?

Numerous studies have shown that pet visitation programs increase social interaction among nursing home residents, reduce agitation in Alzheimer’s patients, and ease the pervasive loneliness that often occurs in long-term care facilities.  The wagging tails of the dogs and the purring of the cats bring smiles and laughter to the faces of nursing home residents, many of whom are isolated, lonely, and depressed.

How It Works

PetPals volunteers are carefully screened for temperament and reaction to stressors by a veterinary behaviorist prior to assignment. Owners and pets are also trained on how to interact with nursing home residents to ensure the best possible experience for human and animal volunteers.

“It’s something many of our residents adore. Not only are the animals loved, their owners’ dedication and efforts mean the world to us.”
-a quote from a nursing home Director of Volunteers

Requirements for PetPals dogs:

  •     Be at least one year of age
  •     Be comfortable around people
  •     Be able to obey basic commands: “sit,” “stay,” and “heel.”
  •     Be on a flea and tick control program from March until November
  •     Not on a raw diet
  •     Have a physical exam at least 12 months before placement

Requirements for PetPals cats:

  •     Be at least one year of age
  •     Be able to walk with a harness and a leash
  •     Be comfortable with travel
  •     Be on a flea and tick control program from March until November
  •     Not on a raw diet
  •     Have a physical exam at least 12 months before placement

If you are interested in becoming a FriendshipWorks PetPals volunteer, please fill out our online PetPals application or call 617-482-1510.

You can also email Ellen at ekirchheimer@fw4elders.org or email Andrea at agilbert@fw4elders.org if you have any questions about the PetPals program.