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Mission Statement

We improve the lives of people with the help of dogs.


Patchogue Rotary Animal Assistance Teams (PRAAT) was formed in 1993 by Dr. Dave Hensen, DVM, DABVP in

cooperation with the Patchogue Rotary Club. PRAAT’s philosophy is "to involve regular people and their dogs with a

program that facilitates the interaction of people and dogs to enhance the lives of everyone." Through a unique model

that supports and assists the volunteers, PRAAT is able to serve 33 facilities

throughout Suffolk County, New York.

There are many Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) organizations in the United States.

PRAAT is set apart by its centralized structure, which allows for continued oversight

and support of volunteers. Potential handler-dog teams are screened through a

process that is unique to PRAAT. Dogs are assessed for temperament and physical

factors that might detract from their ability to be an effective therapy dog. The dogs

are played with, to make sure they are friendly, and then surprised with a loud noise

to assess their reaction. Many dogs will run to their owners in order to hide. These "Velcro dogs," while they can be

perfectly wonderful pets, are not well-suited to AAA, because they will be entering facilities where loud noises and

unexpected situations might be commonplace. Dogs that are oblivious to shocking situations, or rebound very quickly,

tend to do well in therapy situations.

Another factor that differentiates PRAAT from other organizations is the training. Each handler-dog team is

required to undergo a ten-week training course that teaches basic obedience, and exposes the handlers and dogs to

objects they might encounter on a therapy visit, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and

other medical equipment. The final three training sessions are held in a nursing

home or other facility, where the dogs and humans can get acclimated to a typical

AAA environment and the dog’s behavior can be assessed. There is also a

mandatory class on disability etiquette, which is unique to PRAAT.

Once the training is complete, PRAAT’s involvement does not end. Many

AAA organizations do not assist in scheduling visits; the volunteers have to contact

facilities on their own. PRAAT does the administrative work, so that the handlers can focus on their visits. PRAAT also

carries liability insurance, so that handlers and facilities are protected in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.

Finally, PRAAT maintains contact with the volunteers and the locations they visit, to ensure that everyone is satisfied and


This team approach to Animal Assisted Activity has helped to grow PRAAT into a thriving organization with 47

dedicated handler-dog teams, making almost 100 visits per month. Recent efforts have focused on expanding services

into new areas, and recruiting additional volunteers. PRAAT’s growth will enable more people and communities to

benefit from Animal Assisted Activity.



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