Lort Smith, the iconic Melbourne institution is resuming services in their long-running volunteer pet therapy program.
This service, which has been provided free to the community for over 30 years stopped during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. The much-loved pet therapy volunteers had to cease their visits to hospitals and aged-care facilities, and juvenile justice centres.
Lort Smith CEO, Fiona Webster said, “We are so pleased to be able to bring back our volunteers and their dogs to visit patients, residents and staff who have been doing it pretty hard with the isolation of COVID-19.
“It’s been really tough on so many people who have been unable to have visitors, and our pet therapy volunteers would normally be spending time on a weekly basis with staff and patients before the lockdown to provide comfort and support with their beautiful dogs,” she said.
In addition to visiting people experiencing illness, adversity and loneliness, our pet therapy teams provide stress relief, respite and support to facility staff, who often work in very challenging environments. A hug or a moment spent connecting with an animal can act as a circuit breaker, bringing a calming effect.
At Lort Smith we believe in and promote the benefits of the human–animal bond which goes beyond companionship. The bond is the strong positive interaction between humans and animals – a special cohesive relationship that enhances human quality of life and the power to heal. Many therapeutic benefits of the human–animal bond are well documented, and can include emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual benefits.
Ms Webster said, “Not everyone can have a pet, particularly patients and residents in aged-care, hospitals, and other facilities. Our pet therapy program fills that void, albeit temporarily, by sharing the love of an animal.”