KTTU "In Focus," 11/29/09, 10:30 AM; KMSB "Fox-11 Forum," 12/6/09, 7:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Pam Gaber, President and Founder, and Kate Titus, a volunteer team leader, Gabriel’s Angels.  Gabriel’s Angels is the only program in Arizona that delivers healing pet therapy to abused, neglected and at-risk children.

Gaber says pet therapy involves an animal with specific characteristics becoming a fundamental part of a child's treatment. She says it is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning of the child. She says research has shown that an abused or neglected child is more likely to grow up to be an abuser and there is a link between violence directed towards animals and eventual violence directed towards humans.  She says children who witness violence are more likely to grow up to be abusive.  She says animal cruelty is a strong predictor of the potential for escalating future violence towards humans.
 
Gaber introduces Kate Titus and “Harley,” a Great-Dane mix. She said volunteers undergo background checks and both the volunteer and the dog are then trained and evaluated before being assigned to an agency.  She says placement is dependent on the request from the facility, availability of the volunteer team, personality of the owner and the personality of the therapy dog.  She says teams visit crisis nurseries, domestic violence and homeless shelters, residential treatment centers for teens and group homes all in an effort to intervene in children’s lives and break the cycle of domestic violence.
 
Gaber says the therapy visit is relatively unstructured, following a Montessori-based educational belief that children will convey what they need to accomplish during the visit.  She says children might brush a dog’s teeth, allowing children to draw the parallel between this activity and self-care needed to maintain personal good health. She says the goal is for children to learn to recognize a need in another and respond positively in filling that need.  She says the bond between a therapy dog and a child is strong enough to break the cycle of violence.  She says once a child learns to be empathetic to the feelings of the therapy dog, that feeling becomes the bridge to enable children to be empathetic to each other.