Dr. David Roy Hensen gave an update on the operations and plans for the Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy (PRAAT) Program at our regular meeting on Wednesday, April 10th.

Dr. Hensen introduced Cindy Amodio, the first full-time employee of the PRAAT program, and then gave a summary of its origin.

Started in 1993, Dr. Hensen’s  intent was to introduce pet therapy to the local nursing homes in the Patchogue area and enable dog owners to share their dogs with people who would enjoy visits from them and provide them with an opportunity to give back to the community.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to visiting 46 different healthcare facilities throughout Suffolk County, with over two hundred volunteers and their dogs; their goal is to eventually cover all of Long Island. 

As outlined on their comprehensive website, Animal Assisted Therapy... Incorporates programs that provide the joy and companionship of pets and animals to children in libraries, to those who are ill, mentally or physically handicapped, or otherwise disadvantaged; their clients include:

•   Nursing homes

•   Adult homes

•   Hospitals

•   Handicapped facilities

•   Psychiatric wards

•   Pediatric wards

•   Rehabilitation centers

•   Schools and Libraries

•   Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck


Dr. Hensen described the steps involved with having a dog certified as a PRAAT therapy dog, including temperament screening, training and evaluation, as well as the benefits of Animal Assistei Therapy, such as lowered blood pressure, reduced anxiety and stress, Improved motor skills and communication.  He also explained how children with reading difficulties demonstrate much-improved reading abilities when addressing an animal.

Dr. Hensen also related some of the frustrations, burdens and fiscal challenges of maintaining the PRAAT program over the years, and of the new fund-raising events planned to benefit the program.

Detailed information about the PRAAT program is available from their excellent website: praatinc.org.

Dr. Hensen and Cindy Amodio are pictured above with Babylon Rotary President Kathy Moore.