Pet Therapy Program to provide support for Rowan community

Students playing with a puppy at a Paws for a Break event. -Photo/Amanda Palma

Over the summer, Rowan University was given $3 million by Gerald Shreiber to establish The Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program of Rowan University. He believes in the therapeutic qualities of dogs and that students can benefit from spending time with them. 

It will be located in the Wellness Center at Winans Hall; currently it’s under construction and will hopefully be ready in November. The assistant director of this new program, Michele Pich, said they already have two big events planned for this fall. One will be the Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program ribbon cutting for physical space at the Wellness Center on Nov. 7 and the other is the Inaugural National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium on Nov. 19.

Pich and others developing the program plan on involving animal-assisted support for students, faculty, staff and the outside community. Some students will be able to get involved by requesting services through the Wellness Center, Veteran’s services, the Autism PATH program, LGBT students and those involved in other Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution (SJICR) programs, students in Pre-Vet Club and students in the Early Childhood Education program. They eventually plan on expanding it to Rowan’s two medical schools, Rowan Athletics and the surrounding community. 

The Paws for a Break program has been a popular and much-loved program offered on campus, and with the new Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program, the Wellness Center plans to expand it. Pet therapy has made such a remarkable impact and they hope to recruit some of the Paws for a Break dog-handler pairs to volunteer more in other aspects of their program.

“The goal is to have dog-handler volunteer pairs from both the Rowan community and the surrounding local community,” said Pich.

The Pet Therapy Program came to life through the help of, and donation from, Gerald Shreiber and his family. Shreiber has a long history of creating pet therapy programs and supporting animal-related initiatives. Melissa Dersch, the director of development for Rowan’s Advancement Office, has been instrumental in working with Shreiber to create a pet therapy program that would expand Paws for a Break events.

The program will be working with some of the local and national therapy dog and pet therapy certifying organizations to accept dogs that have already passed tests through approved organizations. Each dog-handler pair will be evaluated individually at Rowan to make sure they meet all the requirements and are a perfect fit for the program. The Wellness Center wants to make sure the pairs meet all appropriate standards and practices in pet therapy.

These pet therapy sessions will be free of charge, along with the many support services the Wellness Center offers. With their crisis and on-call counselors, individual therapy sessions, yoga and meditation, this new program is a great addition. Can’t wait to see the new initiative and what the Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program will bring to Rowan!

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