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About PALS


PALS = Pet Access League Society

Medical studies prove that pets improve the emotional and physical well being of humans. It's astonishing what contact with animals can do for a person's emotional and physical health. Simply watching a pet can actually lower stress levels and blood pressure. Such fascinating facts are the basis for PALS.

PALS is a non-profit, registered, charitable organization located in Calgary, Alberta, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of individuals through pet therapy. It began under the auspices of the Calgary SPCA in 1982 and became a separate organization in 1985. PALS has two paid employees and is governed by a board of up to 15 directors. PALS is currently funded completely by private and corporate donations and by fundraising events such as raffles, casinos, and other fund raising activities. PALS also receives funds from the United Way Donor’s Choice Program.  The PALS program is provided free to the clients and facilities we serve.

PALS is the largest organization of its kind in North America. Over 450 volunteers and their four-legged pals (purebreds as well as crossbreeds) form 75 teams of up to 10 people. On a pre-set schedule, these teams visit nearly 50 facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, a correctional centre, day programs, group homes, and other care facilities. Each team is directed by a team leader and a facility staff member. Visits are up to one and a half hours long and can include both group visits and one-on-one visits.

The recipients of our Pet Visitation Therapy Program (PVTP) are primarily persons whose response to other forms of therapy is non-existent, or to whom pet therapy would provide an alternative to other more common forms of therapy. Our clients are 75% senior citizens, 5% adults, and 20% children and teenagers.

Due to the measurable benefits of pet therapy, demand for our service keeps increasing. Residents may request that we spend more time with them, while facilities would like us to provide more frequent visits. In order to meet these demands and help more Calgarians, we must maintain our existing high level of service and our strong and committed volunteer force. To reach these goals, we need the financial support and encouragement of the entire community.

Since 1985 we have seen great benefits in those clients we have visited and with your support we hope to continue providing our service for may years to come.

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PALS People


PALS people are over 450 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to over 80. Visiting is done on a team basis according to a set schedule, under the direction of a team leader and a facility staff member. Visits are 60 to 90 minutes in length and involve both group and one-on-one sessions.

Freely contributing their time, expertise and hearts, the volunteer's role is vital. They are not involved in a social visit and they must be prepared to communicate through their pet with people who may be withdrawn, disoriented or severely physically or cognitively disabled.

The patient who responds to a pet may go on to communicate with the volunteer, staff, other patients and family members.  However, for many of the people PALS visits, verbal communication skills are non-existent so contact with a PALS pet becomes even more important.


During the past years, PALS volunteers have made many breakthroughs. Patients have given response after not having spoken for months; depressed, unresponsive people have reached out to connect with the pets; and people considered to be immobile have turned towards or made physical contact with a PALS pet.

 

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PALS Pets


PALS pets add another 275 (dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets and even one horse) volunteers to the PALS program. These four-legged therapists respond unconditionally, in a non-judgmental and non-threatening manner, eliciting responses where all else has failed.

These animals are family pets carefully screened by professionals as to suitability for the program.

Using animals as therapeutic tools has gained widespread acceptance over the past decade.  In addition to anecdotal observations there are now a multitude of studies showing the benefits of using animals in the therapeutic treatment of people in long term and acute care, correctional facilities, palliative care and psychiatric units.  Pet therapy can also play a strong role in the treatment of people recovering from stroke, cardiovascular events and brain injury.  Animals are also used in speech therapy and literacy programs.  The list of applications for animal assisted therapy keeps growing.

 

Suitable Dogs

One of the most frequently questions asked is what type of dog is appropriate for PALS. PALS dogs are typically well-socialized, happy dogs. They must like people and get along well with other animals including cats. Size, breed and energy level are not important. Our smallest is less than five pounds and our largest tips the scales at over 150 pounds. PALS accepts mixed breeds as well as purebred animals. Some of our dogs are very quiet while others are quite active.

Obedience training is not mandatory, however, the dog must have manners and be under control. Basic commands such as sit, down and heel are particularly important for the larger/stronger breeds. Dogs must be accepting of being touched/handled on all parts of their bodies. They should also be comfortable in new situations and recover well when surprised.

The minimum age for dogs is one year. Dogs weighing less than 22.5 kg. must be younger than 10 years old on the date of screening.  Dogs weighing more than 22.5 kg. must be younger than 8 years old on the date of screening.  Dogs with medical conditions may be accepted into the program; however, PALS will excuse any dog if it is felt that its physical comfort or health might be compromised during PALS activities.

 

Suitable Cats

The typical cat is a solitary creature that is most comfortable within its own territory. The typical PALS cat is social and adapts well to new surroundings, likes people and stays around when you have company over. They enjoy human contact and are quite willing to be held in any manner.

They must be accepting of a leash and harness, although they are not required to "walk on lead". In fact many of our feline visitors enjoy some rather unique means of transportation when visiting. Some even have their own wheelchairs!

The minimum age for cats is one year. Cats must be less than 7 years old on the date of screening.  Cats with medical conditions may be accepted into the program; however, PALS will excuse any cat if it is felt that its physical comfort or health might be compromised during PALS activities.

Appropriate Feline Attire:

For our feline volunteers we strongly urge the owner to have a collar and harness on their cat when they come for both the Interview and the Pet Screening. We also urge them to bring their cat into the interview/ screening room in a carrier. Because it is a strange environment for the cat, and at the time of the Pet Screening the room will be full of untested animals - mostly dogs - a cat who is carried in without the aforementioned "control" devices might freak out. Of course, a freaked-out kitty becomes a ball of teeth and claws, making it very hard to control him (mostly for the purpose of ensuring his safety).

If your cat is not used to wearing a collar or a harness, we advise you to introduce your cat to these items – first a collar and then a harness. Be sure that you have a cat-style harness rather than a dog-style (a cat's bone-structures is quite different from that of a dog). The first time you put a harness on your cat, he might look like he is trying to turn himself inside out, but most cats adjust quite well after an initial protest period. It would probably help if the cat associates something happy (like getting a treat) with wearing the harness.

If you think that you’d be able to control your cat under any circumstance, please watch this video!

Suitable Rabbits

Rabbits are one of our most popular visitors as they are both non-threatening and soft.  They are tested to ensure they do not use their back legs, nails or teeth and tolerate handling without becoming stressed. 

The minimum age for rabbits is one year. Cats must be less than 5 years old on the date of screening.  Rabbits with medical conditions may be accepted into the program; however, PALS will excuse any rabbit if it is felt that its physical comfort or health might be compromised during PALS activities.

 

Suitable Guinea Pigs and Ferrets

Guinea pigs, like rabbits, are popular with all the people we visit.  Ferrets, while not for everyone, have a strong following of devotees.  All of these species are tested to see if they will use their nails or teeth.

The minimum age for these species is one year. They must be less than 5 years old on the date of screening.  Guinea pigs and ferrets with medical conditions may be accepted into the program; however, PALS will excuse the pet if it is felt that its physical comfort or health might be compromised during PALS activities.

 

Other Species

Please contact the PALS office at 250-7257 or email at info@palspets.com

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