Aiding in the comfort and healing of critically ill patients and their families since 1994

UCLA People-Animal Connection (PAC) is one of the most comprehensive Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity (AAT/A) programs in the nation. PAC volunteer teams (consisting of the canine and his/her human partner) offer companionship and warmth to more than 1,000 critically ill children and adults per month. Since its inception in 1994, PAC teams have recorded more than 120,000 in-patients visits, as well as hundreds of thousands unrecorded visits to families and guests to UCLA medical centers and community events.

PAC's core foundation is to enhance physical healing and emotional well-being through the canines' instinctive bond with patients of all ages, cultures, and socioeconomic levels. Providing comfort care to critically ill patients including many underserved and indigent individuals who might not have any other visitors. Its success at the Westwood campus has led to the expansion of AAT/A at many UCLA medical facilities, including UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center.

It was incredible to see a living creature sitting on me. I swore I felt my blood pressure lowering on the spot. It was definitely the highlight of my day! The dog taught me how to work on my fine motor skills. He would let me patiently feed one Cheerio at a time using my thumb and index finger.

– Adult stroke patient

PAC is a nationally recognized program and has been published in Newsweek, Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Business Journal, Los Angeles Times, Santa Monica Mirror, and other local media. PAC has been featured on NBC's Today Show and KNBC-Los Angeles, which was nominated for a News Emmy. PAC, as well as individual PAC team members, have been the recipients of several special awards for their work with patients.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations uses PAC protocols to promote AAT/A, nationally and internationally. PAC assists other medical institutions, nationally and abroad, offering guidance in policy and procedures. Our therapy dog teams are all registered with the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, one of the most well-established therapy animal organizations in the United States.

Child with PAC dog

The Growing Need for Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity (AAT/A)

While medical advancement has resulted in shorter hospitalization, it also offers treatments and procedures for previously terminal diseases and injuries that may require long-term hospital care. Patients may experience stays of weeks or months, causing separation from loved ones and familiar surroundings. Prolonged pain, discomfort, and boredom often lead to loneliness, depression, and even hostility.

Dogs are naturally interactive and provide relief from long days in the hospital, helping patients to shift their focus from discomfort to enjoyment. The animals' unconditional love and attention brighten everyone's day - patients, visitors, and staff alike. Medical research has shown that AAT/A brings about physiological signs of relaxation such as decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. In addition, AAT/A stimulates activity in Alzheimer's patients and in physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Each PAC team must meet PAC's strict eligibility criteria and successfully complete a nationally standardized behavioral exam. Following the exam is a lengthy period of screening and training, including classroom studies and supervised on-site visits. This training process can take up to 6 months or more. Not all teams will qualify to become part of UCLA's People Animal Connection program.

For more information on becoming a volunteer with your dog or the overall program, contact UCLA People-Animal Connection at [email protected] or (310)267-8184.

How You Can Make A Difference

If you have a question about giving to UCLA People-Animal Connection or other UCLA Health programs, contact UCLA Health Sciences Development at (310) 206-0500.