OSF St. Joseph Medical Center

Bloomington, Illinois

Animal-Assisted Therapy

We believe in treating both the emotional and physical needs of our patients.

Animal Assisted Therapy, known as “Karing Partners” at OSF St. Joseph, uses highly trained dogs and handlers to enhance the overall quality of our patient's experience.

Therapy dogs bring comfort to the patients while reducing stress, anxiety, pain, and blood pressure.

A visit from one of our canine companions also increases patient social interaction and communication.

How It Works

All Karing Partner dogs need to be registered as therapy dogs to participate in visits to the hospital.

If your dog is not currently registered as a therapy dog, please go to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs website  to learn more about how you and your dog can become a therapy dog team. If you have further questions, or want more information you are welcome to contact the Volunteer Services Office at OSF Healthcare St. Joseph Medical Center at 665-4728.

Karing Partners Dog Visit Karing Partners Dog Visit


In order to be a Karing Partner, dogs must

  • Be any age, but at least 18-24 months old.  Handlers must be 18yrs old.
  • Be a registered Therapy Dog with an accredited program. * We have Alliance of Therapy Dog tester/observers in Bloomington-Normal area.
  • Be very social and enjoy people and other dogs.
  • Be able to sit, stay, stay and recall on command, and walk loosely on a leash.
  • Be up to date on all vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and year round flea protection.

Please Note: Prong collars and gentle leaders are not acceptable.

Do's and Don'ts of Therapy Dog Visits


  • Bathe your dog within 48 hours of coming for a visit and brush thoroughly day of visit.
  • Allow your dog to relieve itself before a visit and be sure to clean up after your dog.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early and sign in at the volunteer station.
  • Make sure your dog is on a 4 foot leash and wearing their badge while at SJMC.
  • Allow patients, visitors, and staff to engage with you and your dog. Petting is strongly encouraged.
  • Use a barrier pad if you place your small dog on a patient’s bed.
  • Keep track of all the visits you make on the therapy dog activity log sheet.
  • Notify a patient’s nurse of any concerns during your visit.


  • Feed your dog or allow anyone else to feed your dog at any time while doing therapy dog visits.
  • Forget to offer hand sanitizer to anyone who pets or handles your dog. Infection Control.
  • Allow your dog to “shake hands” with anyone. Puppy paws are on many floors.
  • Let your dog bark or otherwise make a lot of noise.
  • Let anyone else take your dog out of your sight.
  • Forget to praise your dog for all the good they do while they are here.

How to Apply

If you and your dog would like to be considered for the Karing Partners team, please apply for our Volunteer Services and Karing Partners program.

After we receive your application, you will be contacted to set up a personal interview for you and your dog with the Volunteer Services Manager.

For more information about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Services at (309) 665-4728.

Apply Online