In June of 2004 Pet Therapy of the Ozarks, Inc., in coordination with the Springfield Greene-County Libraries began an experimental program. The project has been dubbed the P.A.L. program, which stands for Pets As Listeners. In this new program pets are provided to be listeners as children read. Similar programs in other states have seen students who are reading below grade level raise their competency to at or above grade level. Children are more comfortable reading to a dog or cat that never makes fun of them, never corrects them and always enjoys the time spent together.
Pet therapy teams are selected for this project based on their experience and desire to be around children. These dogs must be able to lie in one spot for extended periods of time while children read to them. Pets must be tolerant and patient. They will be petted, hugged, shown pictures, asked questions and sometimes used as pillows. Handlers also must be patient as you will hear the same story many times without correcting the reader and will also need to constantly monitor your pet while it is extensively handled and petted.
Pets As Listeners is a program with high hopes for reaching an even greater number of children who need our pets. Currently PTO serves local libraries, elementary schools, and Boys and Girls Clubs.