Our popular community programme brings furry companions to bedsides and classrooms around the country, where a dose of aroha from our four-legged friends can be just what the doctor ordered.

For decades, healthcare professionals have recognised the wonderful benefits that companionship from animals can offer people.

Whether it’s patients who are dealing with mental or physical health issues, lonely or isolated people, or children with learning difficulties, the unconditional love of an animal has huge potential to reduce stress and put a smile on everyone’s face.

Sometimes, the physical contact of an animal will even reduce physical pain.

How Therapy Pets and their owners help in your community

Our generous volunteers and their fluffy friends donate their time in rest homes, private and public hospitals, rehabilitation units and assisted living homes.

We also offer a Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) programme based in schools. The close contact with our cute companions can reduce anxiety for school children who are afraid of reading aloud, so they are relaxed and get more involved in learning.

Partnering to bring more joy with Summerset

Summerset Retirement Villages are the official sponsor of Therapy Pets. Thanks to this partnership, more furry friends and volunteers can provide the uplifting benefits and make a positive difference to New Zealanders in need of the joy our Therapy Pets bring. It also helps cover set up, dog assessment and uniform costs.

Summerset’s support helps our programme grow and flourish enabling us to reach more people including getting to know the residents at Summerset Retirement Villages.

 Photo of a dog in front of a Summerset Retirement Village

We’d love you and your pet to volunteer

If you have a pet with a gentle nature and would like to share that love with others in your community, please email us

Find out more about volunteering for the Therapy Pets programme

Please note that we expect volunteers to commit to one visit per week in their region.

Would you like a Therapy Pet to visit your school or healthcare facility?

Please email us or call 0800 ST JOHN (0800 785 646) for more information.

Which regions, cities and towns can I find Therapy Pets?

Thanks to our generous volunteers and their pets, Therapy Pets can be found in:

North Island:

  • Auckland
  • Whangarei
  • Kerikeri
  • Thames
  • Palmerston North & Te Kauwhata
  • Wellington, Hutt Valley & Kaipiti Coast

South Island:

  • Invercargill
  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • Alexandra/Cromwell
  • South Otago
  • Dunedin
  • Aoraki
  • Selwyn
  • Christchurch
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson Bays
  • Greymouth/Hokitika
What’s the history of Therapy Pets in Aotearoa NZ?

The programme was first introduced into New Zealand in 1988 by Bob Kerridge (SPCA) and his late wife Iris, after being impressed with a similar programme operating in San Francisco. 

Today, Hato Hone St John – supported by Summerset Retirement Villages – operates the service and aims to grow the programme to reach more people and communities and make a positive difference to their health and wellbeing. To learn more about the Summerset partnership, read here