Visiting Paws:

The Healing Power of Pets

Patients hospitalized at Virtua are often exposed to the extraordinary healing power of animals thanks to Visiting Paws, Virtua’s animal assisted therapy program. It connects specially trained therapy dogs and handlers with patients to decrease stress and improve the healing process.

Research shows that when a person interacts with a dog, blood pressure might decrease and stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression and fear dissipate. Other potential psychological responses include increased awareness, communication, and smiling – all support the healing process.

“I volunteer with Visiting Paws because I enjoy sharing my sweet dog Greta with others," said Michele Lebold. "The gratitude that the patients and staff show is humbling. The smiles make our day.”

The program is also beneficial to the animals, many of which are rescue dogs. These big beautiful animals, often with a sad past, now spend their days bringing joy to sick people.

Gerry Shreiber, the President and CEO of J&J Snack Foods Corp., located in Pennsauken Township, is a strong believer in the healing power of animals. That’s why he made an incredible gift to Virtua Foundation in support of Visiting Paws.

Shreiber, who lives on a farm with his beloved “extended family,” says they sharpen his focus and keep him grounded amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy schedule.

“No matter how challenging my day has been, coming home to my ‘extended family’ reduces the stress," said Shreiber. “God bless the animals.”


Become a Visiting Paws Volunteer

Visiting Paws invites trained volunteer handlers and their dogs to join Virtua’s special animal-assisted activities program that offers added comfort to patients in our hospitals.

For more information, please contact Virtua’s Visiting Paws coordinator at (856) 247-3660 or


303 Lippincott Drive, 4th Floor
Marlton, NJ 08053
t: 856-355-0830 | f: 856-355-0831



Virtua Health Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization committed to enhancing Virtua's mission through philanthropy.


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