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To help students cope with the stress of homesickness and classwork, Dr. Robin Hoffmann, professor in the Department of Administration of Justice and faculty fellow for student success, teamed up with Jennifer Rosa, associate director of residential life, to bring pet therapy into Salve’s residence halls.

Pet therapy has been a meaningful addition to the aid that Salve provides for students throughout the semester and during stressful exam times. The University holds at least two pet therapy stress busters each semester. Hoffmann’s therapy dog, Sasha, is also on campus and interacts regularly with stressed students. Sasha is a miniature poodle who has been qualified as a Pet Partners therapy dog since 2011.

The benefits of pet therapy are well documented, from scholarly articles to studies showing that interacting with a dog reduces blood pressure, lowers anxiety and mitigates self-reported depression among college students.

Pet therapy animals must be reliable, predictable and controllable at all times and in all situations. Animals undergo a 12-part obedience (skills) test and a 12-part temperament (aptitude) test. Administered to both the animal and its handler, the test includes:

  • Clumsy petting
  • Restraining hug
  • Poke
  • Palpate
  • Squeeze
  • Angry yelling
  • Bumped from behind
  • Staggering individual
  • Accepts crutches, wheelchairs, walkers
  • Allows paws to be lifted and to be brushed