CAMH Welcomes New Paw-lleagues to its Pet Therapy Program

On Sun., Feb. 25, Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) went to the dogs…but just for a few hours.  From 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., a furry bunch of hopeful new recruits to the hospital’s renowned pet therapy program performed a series of tasks and simulations to evaluate their readiness to bring the healing power of pets to clients at the internationally renowned health and research centre.  Thanks to a recent $20,000 grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada, CAMH plans to increase the number of therapy dog teams on its volunteer roster from 28 to 40 over the next twelve months. 

Theresa Conforti, Volunteer Coordinator for Clinical Programs at CAMH says that she's seen first hand the benefits pet therapy can bring to patients and clients. "Pets have the unique ability to make us all feel accepted and loved, regardless of the kind of day we may be having or the challenges we may be facing.  They provide a sense of companionship and support, help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and bring a smile to the faces of patients, volunteers and staff members alike at CAMH."

Trevor De Cristofaro and his team from By the Law Dog Training were on-site to help train and evaluate the dogs and their volunteer handlers. From navigating through crowds of people, to assessing responses to distractions, noises and physical contact, and even walking by a row of treats without eating them, the therapy dog teams were provided with a very good sense of the situations they may encounter within the hospital environment.  

PetSmart Charities of Canada believes strongly in the power of the human animal bond.  That's why the registered Canadian charity supports pet therapy programs at children's hospitals, mental health facilities, seniors' centres, libraries and schools across Canada.  Regional relationship manager, Dani Mailing says, "We're proud to help the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health expand their pet therapy program so that even more patients will have the chance to benefit from canine interaction during their treatment."

Facts about CAMH’s Pet Therapy Program:

  • Established in 2004
  • 28 therapy dog teams (dog + volunteer handler) currently on volunteer roster
  • Serves 500 inpatients and 100 outpatients of CAMH annually
  • 1,456 visits are made by the pet therapy program annually
  • The $20,000 PetSmart Charities of Canada grant will increase the therapy dog team roster by 12


About the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health:
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. As a public hospital, CAMH receives its operating funds from the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (TC LHIN). Research grants and funds for special programs are received from the University of Toronto, Foundations and other granting and funding bodies. CAMH works with the government to help shape the public policy and resource development process to ensure it promotes health and works towards eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. CAMH has been recognized internationally as a Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.  Learn more at

About PetSmart Charities of Canada:
PetSmart Charities of Canada is a registered Canadian charity with a mission to find lifelong, loving homes for all pets by supporting programs and thought leadership that bring people and pets together.  In addition to finding homes for more than 25,000 shelter pets each year through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart stores, PetSmart Charities of Canada provides funding to registered charities aligned with its mission through four key areas of grant support: Preventing Pet Homelessness; Helping Shelter Pets Thrive; Supporting the Bond Between People and Pets; and Providing Emergency Relief and Disaster Support. Each year, half-a-million generous PetSmart shoppers help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities of Canada using the pin pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart stores.  In turn, PetSmart Charities efficiently uses 89 cents of every dollar donated and has become a leading funder of animal welfare in Canada, donating more than $14 million to date.  PetSmart Charities of Canada is a member of Imagine Canada and is independent from PetSmart, Inc. To learn more, visit


PetSmart Charities of Canada finds homes for nearly 20,000 cats and dogs each year. The newest member of your family could be just a click away.