Pet Therapy

At Lort Smith we believe in and promote the benefits of the human–animal bond which goes beyond companionship. This bond refers to the strong positive interaction that exists between humans and animals – the special cohesive relationship that enhances human quality of life and has the power to heal. The therapeutic benefits of the human–animal bond are well documented, and can include emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual benefits.

Not everyone has access to the healing power of the human-animal bond, particularly patients and residents in aged-care, hospitals, justice settings and other facilities that support people experiencing hardship.

The Lort Smith Pet Therapy Program has been running for more than 30 years as part of our community outreach services. Volunteers take their specially assessed dogs to hospitals, justice settings and residential care services across Melbourne, providing comfort and relief to people experiencing illness, adversity, loneliness and the long-term impacts of trauma. Evidence suggests interacting with visiting dogs and volunteers can reduce stress and anxiety in clients, alleviate pain and suffering, reduce loneliness, improve motivation for faster recovery and lead to improvements in behaviour, confidence, social skills, mental health and general wellbeing.

Our pet therapy teams also support facility staff, who often work in very challenging environments, as well as the visiting loved ones of patients and residents, who are often very distressed. In these contexts a hug or moment spent connecting with an animal provides much-needed comfort and stress relief.

Learn more about our pet therapy volunteer program.

Lort Smith is proud to be an accredited member – and meet the best practice standards – of the two leading international peak bodies for animal-assisted interventions and human-animal interactions.

The International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO) is the global association of organisations that engage in practice, research and/or education in animal-assisted activity, animal-assisted therapy, and service animal training. These activities serve to promote pet ownership, the human-animal bond, and respectful approaches to engaging with animals.

To be accepted as a member of IAHAIO, organisations need to demonstrate their commitment to IAHAIO’s missions and goals and describe how their work supports positive human-animal interactions and/or animal-assisted interventions.

Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII) is a member driven non-profit organisation that celebrates human-animal interactions, and offers a community, continuing education, standards of practice, competencies and accreditation for Animal-Assisted Intervention practitioners and animal trainers.

The AAII Standards of Practice, to which Lort Smith Pet Therapy subscribes, are the result of member working groups ideas, peer reviewed literature reviews and concepts considered essential for safe and effective for Animal-Assisted Interventions.


Hill’s Pet Nutrition proudly supports Lort Smith Pet Therapy volunteers with access to an affordable diet that provides maximum protection to the clients they visit, especially those with vulnerable immune systems.

Frequently asked questions