How pet therapy is helping at-risk children heal

Posted at 8:24 AM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 10:24:12-05

As the number of children in need grows, so does the demand for services.

One valley non-profit, Gabriel’s Angels, is using pet therapy to try and fill that void and to help thousands of abused, neglected and at-risk kids across Arizona.

On the surface it is a simple interaction between a dog and a child, but these moments are changing lives.

“Children begin to learn empathy, compassion, self regulation; all these behaviors are necessary for children not to enter the cycle of violence,” said Gabriel’s Angels CEO Pam Gaber.

Gaber says the need for services is skyrocketing.  The organization now has 185 pet therapy teams stretching north to Prescott and south to Sierra Vista.

Ann Kendall and her dog, Snickers, have been volunteering for four years.

“You see that whole demeanor change and you know you've impacted [a child],” said Kendall, “and hopefully that they're going to take those changes and change their life, that they know there are options for their lives.”

Options that many times start out more like closed doors.

“Children tend to be closed when they've really suffered such traumatic events and the therapy dog we always say, opens up that window, and allows children to start to attach to something,” said Gaber.

If you’d like to take action and help support this organization’s cause, you can take part in an upcoming event called Paw Prints. I'll be serving as a “guest artist” for the fundraiser and you can vote for my “masterpiece” through donations. All of the money benefits Gabriel’s Angels. Click here to donate.