PALS Pet Access League Society

I was a long-term care patient at The Fanning Centre and could not walk. PALS would visit the main seating area, and I could hear that there were animals (dogs), and I wanted to visit, but no staff was available to help me out of bed into a wheelchair. I taught myself to transfer to a wheelchair from a hospital bed, and looked forward to the visits. This motivated me to learn to use a walker and I checked out of The Fanning Centre and adopted a dog. This lovely miracle of a dog helped me learn to walk again, and I vowed to give back to PALS if I could. Also, my Father was one of the first volunteers when the organization started.  [PALS Volunteer]

This story demonstrates the power of pet therapy.

Medical studies prove that pets improve the emotional and physical well-being of humans. It’s astonishing what contact with animals can do for a person’s emotional and physical health. Simply watching a pet can actually lower stress levels and blood pressure. Such fascinating facts are the basis for PALS.

Since its inception in 1985, the Pet Access League Society (PALS) has worked with volunteers and their pets to bring the amazing benefit of the animal-human bond to those who are unable to access it on their own. This includes Calgarians residing for long and short terms stays at hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, homeless shelters, and young offender’s centres. It also includes children in special schools and programs through the Calgary Public Library.


Because many children and teens enjoy working with animals, animal assisted therapy can be particularly beneficial for those who are resistant to treatment or have difficulty accessing their emotions or expressing themselves in talk therapy. Animals have also been known to reach non-responsive individuals when conventional therapy has been unsuccessful. Animal assisted therapy has been particularly beneficial for those with autism, addictions, Alzheimer’s, psychiatric conditions and strokes and brain injuries.

PALS Vision: Enhanced quality of life through pet visitation therapy.

PALS Mission: Enhance the lives of Calgarians, through the known human-animal bond, with pet visitation therapy, program development, research, education, and collaboration.

PALS Values:

  • Provide safe and enjoyable pet visitation programs to the Calgary community
  • Initiate and participate in new programs involving human animal bond in response to our community’s needs
  • Support pet therapy advancement through program development, research, education, and collaboration
  • Provide quality leadership, support, and growth to our volunteers and staff
  • Ensure all program participants, volunteers, staff, and animals are treated with dignity, respect, compassion, and understanding

All PALS programs are provided free to the clients and facilities we serve. Currently we have three main programs:  Pet Visitation Therapy Program, Story PALS and our newest program, Puppy Rooms. The Pet Visitation Therapy Program provides visits to most of the facilities mentioned above. The recipients of this program are primarily persons whose response to other forms of therapy is non-existent, or to whom pet therapy would provide an alternative to other more common forms of therapy. Clients who benefit from this program have often experienced brain injuries or strokes, Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, Autism or Asperger’s or are in palliative care.

Story PALS is collaboration with the Calgary Public Libraries where we bring dogs into select libraries for children who are having issues with reading and these children spend some one on one time with the dogs reading to them. It has proven to strengthen the children’s reading ability and increase their confidence levels significantly.

Our newest program is working with the Calgary’s universities and other post-secondary institutes by providing some stress release activities during exam times. This program is extremely popular with the students and this year we are already booked into the U of C, Bow Valley College, and St Mary’s University College and we are talking with SAIT and Mount Royal.

PALS clients are 75% senior citizens, 5% adults, and 20% children and teenagers. The need for our services continues to grow, in part due to the measurable benefits of pet therapy, but largely due to the increase in an ageing population. As the population ages and continues to move from independent housing toward some type of long term care facility the residents often are forced to downsize their personal belonging and that includes the family pet. Despite statistical facts surrounding improved mental and physical health and wellbeing with exposure to pets, at the time in their life when pets become the most important the connection is removed. PALS visits on a regular basis helps to bridge that connection again, helping to restore what was once lost.

Volunteers have always been the backbone of PALS and currently there are over 450 volunteers that assist with keeping PALS up and running. This includes approximately 275 who visit with their four-legged pals (who include dogs, cats and guinea pigs). These volunteers form 75 teams and on a pre-set schedule visit nearly 50 facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, a correctional centre, day programs, group homes, and other care facilities. Visits are up to one and a half hours long and can include both group visits and one-on-one visits.

PALS is currently funded completely by private and corporate donations and by numerous fundraising events held throughout the year.

PALS Pet Access League Society has many ways for you to become involved depending on what you are looking for. We are always looking for dedicated, community-minded individuals to help PALS enhance the lives of Calgarians who can benefit from Pet Therapy.

  • Donate: PALS relies on charitable contributions to continue and expand our programming to meet our mission of enhancing the lives of those who benefit of pet therapy. We are always grateful for donations of any kind including: monetary, programming supplies, office equipment and supplies.
  • Volunteer: PALS would not exist without the support of its volunteer base. We welcome their expertise in all areas of programming and operations (see link at the beginning). Volunteer opportunities include:
  • a) PALS program volunteers: become part of the Pet Therapy Visitation Program and join over 275 volunteers and their pets who visit in over 50 facilities throughout the city; or
  • b) events volunteers: each year PALS hosts a number of fundraising and awareness raising events throughout the city. Volunteers, with and without their pets are always needed.
  • Host an event: PALS welcomes groups from the community who are interested in hosting an event and donating the proceeds to our programming. Families, community groups, corporations, businesses have hosted sporting events, wine tasting, photo contests, etc to raise money for PALS.

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Contact Info

PALS Pet Access League Society

Diana Segboer



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