Mya, a 4-year-old Siberian Huskey, visited the State House on Tuesday for the annual Pet Therapy Day. Mya and her guardian Nicole Pare became a certified-pet therapy team in March 2013 through the D.J. Pet Assisted Therapy University Certificate Program at CCRI.
Pare, Mya and fellow Pet Assisted Therapy Facilitators were on-hand to share both the mission of the program and advocate for animal rights. Many graduates and students of The D.J. Certificate Program, as well as professionals in related fields, are now members of Windwalker Humane Coalition for Professional Pet Assisted Therapy, an advocacy group promoting animal rights and the importance of pet assisted therapy. Pearl Salotto founded both the certificate program and Windwalker; she is also the program’s professor.
“We let the dogs be the leader,” said Salotto about the program’s philosophy, which sees pets as family members. “We believe having the pet in the room is special on its own.”
In addition to speaking about pet assisted therapy, the volunteers were trying to gain support for an amendment to the Animal Advocate Law, which allows for the appointment of an animal advocate in cases of animal abuse. Since the law went into effect in June 2012, not one advocate has been appointed. The Windwalker organization is hoping for an amendment that would make the appointment of advocates more common.
“It should be recognized that animals have rights; they shouldn’t just be tossed away,” said Jo-Ann Sutcliffe, Windwalker president.
For more information about Salotto’s certification program or Windwalker, call 734-1888. The next session of the D.J. Pet Assisted Therapy University Certificate Program starts on March 11; registration is available through CCRI now.