Pet Friends Volunteer Program

That's Pediatrics
Making a Paws-itive Impact: How Pet Therapy Benefits Pediatric Hospital Patients and Staff

In our new "That's Pediatrics" podcast episode, hear directly from Angela Gordon, MSW, lead coordinator in the Volunteer Services Department.

Listen to the episode »

The Pet Friends Volunteer Program is an extraordinary pet therapy program that brings the comfort and support of very special dogs and their owners to hospitalized children.

Benefits of pet therapy include:

  • Reducing hospital related fears and normalizing the hospital environment.
  • Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Elevating mood and providing comfort.
  • Alleviating boredom and providing distraction from hospitalization.

Patients can connect with the Pet Friends through:

  • Watching the dogs play or do tricks.
  • Petting and cuddling the dogs.
  • Helping our handlers walk the dogs.

Scheduling a Visit with our Pet Friends Volunteers

  • If your child is an inpatient at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and you would like to coordinate a visit, please contact the Child Life staff or nursing staff on your unit.
  • To learn more about Pet Friends, please contact us via email at

Criteria to Become a Pet Friends Volunteer

If you think you and your dog would make a great Pet Friends volunteer team, please take look at the criteria below.

All dogs must receive a series of screenings and evaluations to become an approved Pet Friends volunteer.

Steps to becoming a Pet Friends Volunteer at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh:

  • Submit Pet Friends Program Interest Form & Therapy Dog Certification Documentation.
  • Submit Well Dog Form (completed by veterinarian and signed by handler).
  • Submit UPMC Volunteer Application (private link to be provided by Volunteer Services department).
  • Participate in a volunteer interview and be accepted as a volunteer.
  • Provide all required documentation (clearances, immunizations, and paperwork).
  • Participate in a canine on-site evaluation.

If the on-site evaluation is passed:

  • Volunteer will attend required volunteer orientation.
  • Volunteer and dog will shadow veteran handler and/or participate in guided first visit.
  • After the shadow and guided visit, volunteers will be added to Pet Friends schedule and begin volunteering.

Requirements for your dog to be evaluated:

  • Dog is one year of age or older.
  • Annual well visit with veterinarian within the last year. (Well Dog Form signed and completed by veterinarian & signed by handler).
    • Leptospirosis/Rabies/Distemper/Parvovirus vaccinations are current. Proof must be submitted prior to evaluation.
    • Fecal and Heartworm exams are negative. Proof must be submitted prior to evaluation.
  • Dog must be certified by a formal certification program such as, but not limited to: Therapy Dogs International, Pet Partners, Therapets, Misty Pines Pet Company, Therapy Dogs United and Therapy Dogs Incorporated. Certification card must be submitted before evaluation.

We require that all Pet Friends volunteer, at minimum, two (2) times per month, for a scheduled consistent shift (e.g. 1st and 3rd Monday of each month from 2-4 pm). However, priority will be given to those Pet Friends teams who can make a consistent weekly commitment (e.g. every Tuesday from 1-3 pm).

Please note: Dogs must be bathed the evening before or the day of the hospital visit.

Dog handlers must join the Hospital Volunteer Program.

Apply for the Pet Friends Volunteer Program at UPMC Children's

Currently, we are accepting new Pet Friends volunteer teams for our Wait List.