Pet Therapy: Furry Friends on Campus


Courtesy of Falvey Library

Students enjoy the Office of Health Promotion’s Pet Therapy every Wednesday.

Katie Formato, Staff Writer

Are you looking for a way to de-stress during the week? Check out Pet Therapy on Wednesdays to get to know other students and to meet a new furry friend. 

Pet Therapy programs are organized and planned by the Office of Health Promotion’s Associate Director, Kristy McCarthy, and occur almost every week for students. Additionally, members of POWER (Peers Offering Wellness Education and Resources) assist McCarthy in planning weekly pet therapy programs. 

To make this event happen, the Office of Health Promotion’s Pet Therapy Program works with Where is the Love? Wednesdays with Pals for Life, a non-profit organization that comes to campus weekly with certified therapy animals. 

In the past years, pet therapy has become very popular on college campuses. The Office of Health Promotion at Villanova held its first Pet Therapy in 2014. Pet Therapy programs at Villanova originally only occurred once during the semester on Reading Day and during finals week. These programs were designed to allow students to take a break from studying and de-stress.

After the initial trial-run, it was clear that Villanova students had a real attachment to the furry friends, and the program started to be held more often.

 “The events were so popular, attracting over 200 students per event, that we saw a need and interest for more pet therapy programming,” McCarthy said. 

Therefore, in the Fall of 2015, the Office of Health Promotion partnered with the Where is the Love? campaign, which follows Villanova’s model of caritas, which McCarthy said is “reminding students that it is the caring of self and others that makes us strive to our fullest potential.”

The Where is the Love? Wednesday’s with Pals for Life Pet Therapy program occurs every Wednesday when there is not a scheduling conflict between Villanova and the organization. Pet Therapy is held on campus at various locations depending on the week. Dogs, and even a bunny, are available for students to hang out with if they are feeling stressed or just need some animal love that week. At these events, students can also talk with the pet owners and learn more about the different animals. 

McCarthy sees a real connection between pet therapy and the stress of college students. 

“Students who come to pet therapy can escape the everyday stressors that come with being a college student and can simply enjoy making a furry friend and connecting with other students and campus resources that help them thrive,” McCarthy said.  

Pet therapy is important on college campuses because it has a large impact on students’ mental health. Many students have animals at home and being away from them for a long time can be difficult. In fact, just petting an animal can play a powerful role in a student’s well-being because it releases an automatic relaxation response. 

“Humans interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promotes the release of serotonin, and oxytocin- all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods,” McCarthy said. “Pet therapy lowers anxiety, provides comfort, reduces loneliness and simply can provide an escape or happy distraction.”    

Many local Villanova and Main Line residents bring their pets to Villanova’s pet therapy sessions. Community members interested in registering their pet for Where is the Love? Wednesdays with Pals for Life Pet Therapy are encouraged to apply and get approved through Pals for Life. 

Pet therapy has become popular at Villanova and it is a great way for students to learn about the Office of Health Promotion and all the events that it hosts. Usually, Pet Therapy is held in Room 200 of the Health Service Building. However, the Office of Health Promotion works with another campus partner to host the first Pet Therapy for each month, and it is usually held in different locations. Follow the Office of Health Promotion on Instagram @villanovahealth or visit the events page,, to learn more about the dates and times of pet therapy, as well as other upcoming events.