Harris Regional Hospital launches pet therapy program

April 11, 2017

SYLVAHarris Regional Hospital is pleased to provide pet therapy for patients and families in partnership with certified dog trainer Jane Finneran and her four-year old Sheltie named Kahlua.

Finneran and Kahlua, who are registered volunteers with the hospital, provide pet therapy 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays on the pediatrics, main nursing unit, and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) floors. Finneran has been a physical therapist for 35 years and a certified dog trainer for 20 years.

Pet therapy at Harris Regional Hospital involves patients and family members simply petting Kahlua.

“Studies have shown that pet therapy can reduce a patient’s stress level, blood pressure, and a general sense of well-being,” said Janet Millsaps, Patient Experience Officer for Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital. “There are proven physical, mental and emotional benefits to interacting with a certified pet therapy dog and we are excited to offer this additional level of care to our community.”

“Kahlua is a natural for a therapy dog. She loves everyone and actively seeks out attention. To be a pet therapy dog, in general, dogs should be able to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Kahlua was tested through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and had to pass three observations in a designated facility,” said Finneran.

Kahlua was adopted from a Sheltie rescue organization in South Carolina through the Petfinder website.

All patients wishing to visit with Kahlua will be screened for pet allergies.

“We require strict adherence to sanitation guidelines including hand sanitation, for patients and staff, before and after each visit,” said Jennifer Freeman, Infection Prevention Specialist for Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital.

To learn more about pet therapy or volunteer opportunities at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital contact Krysta Cooper at (828) 631-8893.