Animals Asia’s Dr Dog is an innovative animal-assisted therapy programme that provides people in need with what they need most – a best friend. The programme is also changing the way people feel about dogs. In China, where we focus our work, Dr Dog is challenging beliefs and changing lives for animals. As more people come to understand that dogs have feelings, both physical and emotional, more people are standing up against the cruel trade in dogs (and cats) for their meat.
Through Dr Dog, registered therapy dogs are visiting hospitals, homes for the elderly, disabled centres, orphanages and schools in three mainland Chinese cities and Hong Kong. We have also introduced Dr Dog to Taiwan, the Philippines, India, Japan and Malaysia by providing local animal-welfare groups with training and advice to run their own programmes independently.
Our Dr Dogs give patients the feeling that they are special. Patients know their loyal furry friends won’t judge them for the way they look or for their illness and will accept them regardless of class, race, age or disability. Our dogs and their volunteer owners are spreading the message that they are our best friends and helpers, not food or fur. Through demonstrating the contribution dogs make to human society, we’re changing attitudes towards dogs, and animals in general.
Pioneered in Asia in 1991 by Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson, the concept of animal-assisted therapy began with just one dog and a vision to promote animal welfare through people welfare. Dr Max – Jill’s gentle golden retriever – was allowed just one hour in the garden of Hong Kong’s Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital in 1991. The smiles on the faces of one paraplegic boy and his amazed carers marked the start of a positive change in the public's perception of companion animals.
Following in Max’s healing paw prints, Dr Dog has grown quite literally in leaps and bounds. Over 1,000 canine consultants have since qualified as official Animals Asia animal therapy dogs and teams of enthusiastic volunteers make regular visits to hospitals, disabled centres, homes for the young and elderly, orphanages and schools, spreading warmth and unconditional love to people in need.
Our Dr Dogs brightened the lives of around 25,000 people in 2012, including special-needs children, the sick and elderly in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu, promoting our “Friends or Food” campaign at the same time. Many of these dogs are mixed-breed, helping to spread the message that it’s not just expensive pedigree dogs that deserve our respect.