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ACS PAWS pilot program is unleashed

Grants awarded to six hospitals for funding therapy dogs to support children with cancer.

This summer, ACS expanded its impact on pediatric patients with cancer through the launch of ACS PAWS (Pups Assisting with Support), a pilot grant program that aims to improve the quality of life for hospitalized children with cancer through support from specially trained therapy dogs. Now, the program has awarded the six children’s hospitals $8,000 each to support existing therapy dog programs.

Collectively, the projects are estimated to impact more than 10,000 children and families impacted by cancer. Funding during the 12-month grant period will supplement veterinary costs, adoption, training for the handler or staff members, food, grooming, beds, toys and improving or maintaining dog facilities for the following:

  • Children’s Hospital Orange County (CHOC) in Orange, CA
    • Lois, a 4-year-old golden retriever/yellow lab mix
  • Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC
    • Company, a 3-year-old golden retriever
  • Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL
    • Brea, a 5-year-old yellow lab
  • Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville, KY 
    • Luna, a 2-year-old black lab
  • Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX
    • Bailey, a 7-year-old golden retriever  
    • Pinto, a 7-year-old golden retriever
    • Pluto, a 5-year-old golden retriever
    • Cohen, a 5-year-old golden retriever
    • Angus, a 4-year-old golden mix
  • UW Health Hospitals and Clinics - American Family Childrens Hospital in Madison, WI
    • Cola, a 3-year-old golden doodle mix
    • Kiko, a 4-year-old golden doodle

Widely considered a safe and desirable intervention for children with cancer, animal-assisted therapy for hospitalized children has been shown to decrease symptoms like anxiety, stress, depression, and pain, and increase quality of life indicators like feelings of joy and calmness, positive memories from hospitalization, and improved sense of well-being.

From birth, therapy dogs who work full-time in children’s hospitals receive extensive, specialized training to provide goal-orientated, therapeutic interventions and emotional support. The ACS PAWS grant program fills a critical gap for institutions as animal-assisted therapy programs are primarily supported by philanthropy efforts.

“We’re excited that this new initiative allows us to focus on the unique needs of children with cancer and their families,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer. “By supporting children during a challenging time, therapy dogs and their handlers play a supportive role in improving the hospital environment during cancer treatment and reducing suffering. It’s another way we’re working to connect with families that need additional support during their cancer journey.”

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