Pets As Therapy | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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Pets As Therapy

What is Pets As Therapy (PAT) Program?

Pets As Therapy (PAT) is a community service which has been offered by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for over 30 years. The PAT Program aims to assist members of the public whom may benefit from a therapy dog but don’t have the time, capacity or resources to raise and train an appropriate dog themselves.

The PAT Program carefully matches the client to the PAT labrador that is best suited to their needs and surroundings for the best likelihood of a successful partnership.


Picture shows: Pets as Therapy (PAT) Graduates Chance, Yates, Shirley, Prince

Who can apply for a PAT dog?

PAT dogs may provide comfort, companionship and emotional support to individuals and those attending or residing in facilities whom experience behavioural, emotional and mental health conditions, physical disabilities, or isolation caused by age or illness.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT currently offer two PAT programs: PAT dogs for individuals and PAT dogs for residential facilities.

Individual PAT Program

The primary role of a PAT dog for individuals is to provide companionship and emotional support to those whom might benefit. Current and past applicants have included children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, San Filippo Syndrome, Global Developmental Delay, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, early onset dementia, vision impairment, hearing impairment, stroke, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and acquired brain injury to name a few.

Residential PAT Program

The primary role of a PAT dog for a residential facility is to provide companionship and emotional support on a broader scale to appropriate facilities such as schools, nursing homes, psychologists, counsellors and rehabilitation clinics. PAT dogs placed in residential programs have also been assessed as suitable to be in and around busy environments and are matched with their specific role in mind.  

PAT dogs placed in facilities require a Primary Carer who will take the dog home with them after their day ‘at work’. We do not place dogs in facilities on a permanent basis.

Both Individual and Residential PAT applicants are required to provide a secure and loving home with adequate fencing and shelter and allow the dog to spend time in and sleep inside the home. PAT dogs have been raised to be with people and as such should not be left alone for more than 4 hours a day most days of the week.     

How can I apply for a PAT dog?

To ensure the welfare of our dogs and to provide the right service for all clients, the following steps must be taken before an individual or a residential facility can apply for a PAT dog:

  1. Read the Information Booklet in its entirety, then complete the online Self-assessment form for a PAT dog. It is mandatory for all applicants to complete the self-assessment which will later be discussed with the Client Service Officer (CSO). Please select the Self-assessment form that best suits your needs:

    1. Individual Self-assessment form

    2. Residential Self-assessment form

  2. Read the PAT dog handler agreement which is applicable and relevant for all applicants

  3. Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  4. Once you have completed all of the above, please submit your application using the form that best suits your needs:

    1. Individual PAT Application form

    2. Residential Self-assessment form: Once you have completed this form please email your completed form to admin [at] guidedogs.com.au

What happens after I apply?

  1. Upon receipt of your application, you will receive an Acknowledgment Letter from the Guide Dogs Centre.

  2. If an application is deemed unsuitable the decision will be communicated in writing to the applicant outlining why the application has been deemed unsuitable. The applicant has the right to appeal the decision.

  3. If the application is deemed suitable the applicant will be contacted within 6 weeks of receipt of application by a Client Service Officer (CSO) to discuss the application and to arrange an assessment.

  4. The assessment will be conducted in the applicant's home and generally takes 1-2 hours to complete. In the case of a residential application, both the home of the Primary Carer and the facility will be visited. This can be done on separate days if required.

  5. The CSO will review and discuss the Self-Assessment and details of the application. Additional relevant information may be collected an a practical assessment may be conducted. This may include a walk around the applicant's local area or to places where the applicant intends to take the dog. If the applicant moves residence after the assessment but before receiving a PAT dog, the new residence will need to be assessed as well. Support such as family members, friends and advocates are welcome to attend the assessment.

  6. Following completion of the assessment, the CSO will make a recommendation to the Pets As Therapy Team. The decision of the Team will be communicated to the applicant in writing.

  7. Successful applicants will be included in the PAT Waiting List until a suitable dog match is made.

Alternatively you can contact the Guide Dog Centre on (02) 4579 7555 or email admin [at] guidedogs.com.au

. Please ensure that you have completed the Self-assessment form and read through the PAT dog handler agreement and FAQs before contacting the centre.

What are the benefits of a PAT dog?

PAT dogs can improve quality of life by reducing anxiety, increasing physical activity, a sense of community and well- being, encouraging routine and commitment, and of course providing non-judgemental and unwavering friendship. Interaction with therapy dogs has been scientifically proven to lower heart rate, increase speech and memory function and heighten mental clarity.

PAT dogs are trained in basic obedience, have great home manners, are reliable on lead and are exposed to mobility equipment and other stimulus where necessary. And they are just plain gorgeous!  

Important Information

PAT dogs are placed with clients in the capacity of a companion animal and therefore do NOT have public access rights. Although PAT dogs are matched to clients based on a carefully considered criteria, PAT dogs are not trained in behaviours to specifically assist with alleviating or mitigating a client’s health concerns and therefore are not considered an Assistance Animal (please see www.assistancedogsinternational.org for more information regarding assistance dog standards and types).

Should you wish to take your PAT dog into public places such as medical appointments, school grounds, café’s, etc. you will need to seek permission from each individual establishment which may or may not grant access. PAT dogs are permitted in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT complies with the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Companion Animals Act 1988 NSW Legislation in relation to welfare, training, allocation and public access of PAT dogs.