Did you know that there are over 300 dogs in our Knoxville community that spend one hour each week working with HABIT, a nationally recognized animal-assisted therapy program?
HABIT or Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee, is a non-profit group of volunteers that works to promote the bond between humans and animals. Through the program children and adults in retirement/nursing homes, assisted living centers, hospitals, and schools receive animal assisted therapy. Even though dogs are the main animal volunteers in the program, there are a few cats and rabbits that participate as well.
HABIT has been around since 1986 when it was founded as a collaborative effort between the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Social Work. Today over 120 facilities in Knox and the surrounding counties are served by HABIT and many more are on the waiting list.
Before being accepted into the program, animals are medically screened and evaluated for behavior. The human volunteers then go through an orientation and training to learn how the program works and what is expected of them. The volunteers are then placed in a facility such as a school where children can read to the dog, or a rehabilitation center where the dog can help clients with their speech or motor skills. Once the visits begin, experienced volunteers monitor, and provide ongoing feedback and evaluation to help ensure that the visits are benefiting both the client, volunteer, and animal.
If you are interested in volunteering with HABIT, there are four steps to get started:
1. Attend a 2 hour HABIT informational meeting to learn about the program.
2. Submit your paperwork to the HABIT offices.
3. Take your pet to an hour-long behavior assessment by HABIT volunteers
4. Once you’re approved for the program, attend an orientation at your assigned facility.
For more information you can contact HABIT:
Photo Credits: HABIT