Therapy animals help people in variety of ways

The Board of County Commissioners has proclaimed April 30 as National Therapy Animal Day in Clermont County. Learn more about therapy animals in Clermont County from Karen Spradlin of Pet Partners.

Q: What is Pet Partners?

A: Pet Partners is a National and International Therapy Animal Program.  We are located now in six different countries besides the U.S.  Our mission is to “improve human health and well-being through the human-animal bond.”

Q: What is a therapy animal team?

A: It is a person and their animal who visits patients, residents and students in facilities who request therapy animal visits.

Q: How many people are on a team?

A: A therapy animal team is one human being and one animal.  94 percent of our therapy animals are dogs.  The owner must complete a 6-hour workshop or online course and pass an evaluation with their animal.  They also go through a background check.  Once the “team”  has passed their evaluation, Pet Partners carries $2 million liability insurance on each team.

Q: How does this work?

A: Example:  You are a hospital representative and you would like four teams to visit your hospital throughout the week.

Q: How do people ask for the service?

A: You contact Pet Partners of Greater Cincinnati, or me, and we would canvas our membership to see if there is any team is interested in visiting the patients at your hospital. I am the Pet Partners representative for the east side of Cincinnati.:  My email address is: If they want to contact the president of our local Pet Partners of Greater Cincinnati she, too, can help facilities to have teams to visit.  Her name is Susan Steinhardt. Her email address is:

Q: How many people are associated with Pet Partners in Clermont County?

A: Pet Partners of Greater Cincinnati has 200 members. We service all of Cincinnati proper as well as Clermont, Butler, Hamilton, and, counties in Northern Ky.

Q: How many of the 200 teams serve in Clermont County?

A: I am not sure but if I had to make a guess I would say 20 or more. Our members do not visit just the county in which they live.  I have gone as far as Columbus for a visit for a dying veteran. If we have available teams we will go anywhere, usually within a 100-mile radius.

Q: Do the teams interact with veterans, seniors, patients, students facing literacy challenges and those approaching end of life?

A: Yes, our members visit all those places and more.  I set up the only Therapy Animal Program in Clermont County for Juveniles.  Judge Shriver met with me and we organized and implemented the Clermont County Juvenile Detention Center.  We are proud of that accomplishment.  Me, personally?  I have visited every facility you mentioned.  While visiting with the VA Hospital I was assigned to the Suicide Prevention Unit and well as the Mental Health/Drugs and Alcohol unit.  My dog, Baxter, is also a Courtroom Dog who gave support to a little girl during her trial.

Q: If so, how often and where?

A: I, personally, make visits, pre-pandemic, twice a week.  My usual visits are Clermont Mercy Hospital, Anderson Mercy Hospital, St. Veronica READ program, Batavia Elementary READ program, Brookdale Assisted Living, and Forest Hills Care Center. I also set up four of the READ library programs (there are 10 Clermont County libraries) and I am working on the other six. The libraries now participating in Clermont County are:  Amelia, Batavia, Milford and Union. I visit all of the library READ program.

The list of facilities that our members visit is extensive.  Please visit Pet Partners of Greater Cincinnati website and click on “Facilities” at the top of the page and you will be amazed at how many facilities we visit.  Hundreds………

Q: How do the teams interact with veterans, seniors, patients, students facing literacy challenges, and those approaching end of life?

Schools interact differently than hospital patient interaction than hospice interaction.  Example:  At a school,  members visit so that the student can read to the dog or animal, in a one-on-one setting.  READ stands for Reading Education Assistance Dog. Vs. another school that may use our teams during Exam Week.  The teams are used for reducing stress in that setting and the students merely interact with the dog by petting and loving on him/her.

Veterans may or may not interact at first.  Once they want to interact, such as the VA hospital, (in the suicide prevention unit they will pet or hug the dog or animal). We usually have at least two-member teams in the same room visiting.  That is because, instead of making rounds to each veteran, one of the teams focuses on the patient who needs them the most and the dog/animal strictly visits with him/her while the other team makes their round to each veteran in the room.  Or, the team may visit the bedside of the veteran in a one-on-one situation.

Assisted Living Patients:  At times, they may be gathered in a great room and the teams make their rounds to each resident.  Or, we may simply go from room to room and visit.

Hospice patients are individual visits, at the bedside.  Sometimes, the patient is non-verbal.  If he/she can interact they may have a dog, if it is a small dog, on the bed with them while they pet and love on the dog.  Oftentimes, even non-verbal, speak at least one word during the interaction with the animal.

 Q: Anything you want to add:

Pet Partners registers nine different species of animals as you can see in the picture.  All of the animals are highly trained for temperament, skill, and obedience. In addition, they are not allowed to eliminate during visits.  They wear no equipment to prevent it from happening………that is how well trained the animal is.   At this time, Pet Partners of Greater Cincinnati has six species of the nine mentioned in the attachment, who are registered as therapy animals.  Dogs, cats, rabbits, domesticated rats, Guinea pigs, and miniature horses (my favorite to evaluate).  Of course, 94 percent of all therapy animals are dogs.  We have two teams with guinea pigs…….one team with a rabbit………one team with a domesticated rat, and three teams with miniature horses.

Some states or cities do not have an Instructor or Evaluator in their area.  I have evaluated teams from north of Columbus, Columbus proper, Indiana, West Virginia, Louisville Ky, and 3 mini horses from Michigan.