Press Releases


Contact: Linda J. Johnson
WCA Hospital Public Relations & Marketing Department
Telephone: (716) 664-8614. Fax (716) 664-8609

WCA Hospital Seeks Therapy Dogs

WCA Hospital
Pictured from left, Terri Stalmach, CTRS, WCA Hospital Supervising Recreation Therapist; Maggie Irwin, dog owner; and trained Pet Therapy dog at WCA, Cody.

Jamestown, New York (Wednesday, August 19, 2015)The WCA Hospital Recreation Therapy Program is seeking dedicated owners to participate in the Pet Therapy Program at WCA Hospital.  The hospital therapy program exposes patients and staff to the positive experience of interacting with an animal.

With the help of the owner’s dog, the Pet Therapy Program provides a positive psychosocial experience and alternate therapy for patients.  Research shows that spending time with a pet can reduce blood pressure and stress, normalize heart rate, improve circulation, and help patients recover from certain illnesses and medical conditions.

The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is required for a dog and its handler to qualify to volunteer for the Pet Therapy Program at WCA.   Andrea DiMaio, Canine Behaviorist and owner of Dog Speak, holds classes and conducts the CGC test.  The dog handler and the dog must be preapproved before taking the classes.  Interested pet owners may contact Andrea and Sharee at (716) 969-5813 to register for the classes.  Taking the classes is not a prerequisite to taking the test.  Handlers can elect to participate in the test only.

“Our program has been very successful in treating patients using animals that have been trained properly and tested for temperament,” says Terri Stalmach, CTRS, WCA Hospital Supervising Recreation Therapist for the Pet Therapy Program at WCA”.

Since the 2000 study by the State University at Buffalo which found the use of pets to significantly decrease blood pressure in high risk patients, when combined with medication many pets have come in and out of hospitals to visit with the patients as well as assist in their therapy. Dogs seem to be the most common therapy pets.  

“We have discovered that when a patient is working alongside a therapy dog, they don’t even realize they are having therapy,” said Terri who has overseen the program since its introduction at WCA.  “Our pet therapy dogs are used for many different forms of therapy including stroke patients who need work with the side of their body that has been affected by a stroke. They are encouraged to pet the dog with the weak side of their body which assists in range of motion.  Patients who have mental health and chemical dependency conditions bond with the dog and this form of therapy leads to a reduction in anxiety—a form of behavioral therapy.  Our program has also helped patients, young and old, to communicate more effectively.”

If you or someone you know would like more details on the Pet Therapy Program at WCA Hospital and/or the training course available for pets, please contact Terri Stalmach, at (716) 664-8521.  To learn all of the ways WCA cares for you, visit

< Back to Press Releases

Your Opinion