Animal-Assisted Therapy Program

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Four-legged Healers

Animal-Assisted Therapy Program“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
~Roger Caras

There’s a bond between humans and dogs that defies understanding. Nowhere does this bond have a greater impact than in animal-assisted therapy, in which dogs help meet the emotional and physical needs of children and adults with illnesses, injuries or disabilities.

Our Program is Unique

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospitals’ determination to go beyond the average patient care experience takes on a whole new meaning with its Animal-Assisted Therapy Program (AAT), which launched in 2002.

In 2014, more than 12 specially trained therapy dogs and handlers volunteered throughout the Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s system in numerous areas including patient care floors, rehabilitation, brain injury rehabilitation, and cancer care. They visit patients at their bedsides, in lobbies and waiting areas, bringing social and emotional comfort and support.

Studies have shown that therapy dogs in healthcare can result in:
• Faster recovery times
• Increased engagement and progress in therapy
• Improved coping and adjustment
• Increased feelings of calm and comfort
• Decreased pain

Therapy Dogs in RehabilitationTherapy Dogs in Rehabilitation

For example, after a brain injury, a person may not speak for some time. The speech therapist may use a therapy dog to encourage them to call the dog. Or, by using a therapy dog, an occupational therapist may inspire a stroke patient to regain arm movement and control by throwing a ball for the dog.

Get Involved!

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s hospitals are recruiting dog and handler teams to expand its program. To find out more about Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s AAT programs, request visits, or to volunteer, please contact Kerry Burmeister  at 414-585-4809 or

Funds for the AAT program are generously provided by the Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation. Your gift to the Foundation makes a tremendous impact on the lives of our patients, friends and neighbors. More details...



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