The Executive Board gave the green light for the AVMA to participate in a joint program with the Children's Miracle Network called "Pets Helping Kids, Kids Helping Pets."
One of the main components is involvement with the Josh Project. Designed by Knoxville veterinarian Dr. Randy Lange, this project involves a stuffed toy Golden Retriever and a book, "I'll Be O.K," whose main character is a dog that goes through surgery. The book and dog comfort children facing serious medical challenges.
Through participation in the project, veterinarians will be able to purchase and sell these two items, and a portion of the profits will go to the Children's Miracle Network in the veterinarian's region.
Dr. James H. Brandt, chair of the Executive Board, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, saying he saw the program in action at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, during the 2002 AVMA Convention. A person reads a book to a child who is about to undergo surgery, and then the child carries the dog through all the tests and procedures, Dr. Brandt said. After the surgery, health care workers put the dog back in the child's arms so that when he or she awakens, they think the dog has been with them the whole time.
The AVMA believes that partnering with the largest children's charity of its kind will enhance national awareness of the veterinary profession, help AVMA members and their practices increase their visibility through greater involvement in their communities, and promote the therapeutic value of the human-animal bond. It will encourage the use of AVMA guidelines in animal-assisted activity and therapy programs. And it may create a mechanism for greater involvement of veterinarians as an integral part of the health care team in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The AVMA Council on Public Relations and Committee on the Human-Animal Bond, the two entities that recommended the motion to the Executive Board, also believe that the Josh Project could provide a potential source of funding for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. The foundation could use this money to support studies addressing the various aspects of human-animal relationships.
In addition to the Josh Project, the AVMA will explore embarking on several other projects through "Pets Helping Kids. Kids Helping Pets." For example, the Association may include veterinarians as principal members of animal-assisted therapy programs through Children's Miracle Network hospitals. Veterinary clinics could also take part in the Miracle Balloon Campaign, which raises money for needy children.