Newswise — Orlando, Fla.– Orlando Health is teaming up with PetSmart to help fund the hospital system’s pet therapy program, ensuring thousands of patients access to these canine comfort teams. PetSmart Paws for Hope at Orlando Health will kick off today at Orlando Health’s seven hospitals throughout Central Florida. Funding from PetSmart will sponsor the 36 pet therapy teams currently in operation at Orlando Health.

“At PetSmart, we’re dedicated to supporting our customers, associates and communities,” said David Lenhardt, CEO of PetSmart. “We’re proud to partner with Orlando Health on PetSmart Paws for Hope and look forward to helping more patients heal through the power of pets.”

“Our pet therapy teams play a very special role here at Orlando Health - the impact the volunteers and therapy dogs have when they walk into a patient’s room, or sit at the feet of a chemotherapy patient undergoing cancer treatment, is truly incredible,” said Mark Roh MD, President, UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health. “Pet therapy has proven to reduce a patient’s stress, calm fears and anxieties and aid in much quicker healing times. We thank PetSmart for its support and recognition of this vital program that comforts so many of our patients, guests and team members.”

This is the second national partnership of its kind between PetSmart and a hospital pet therapy program and will mark the first time Paws for Hope has worked with adult patients. PetSmart’s donation of $62,500 over the next four years will fund new pet therapy teams and pet therapy activities within Orlando Health’s hospitals. In addition, community events and outreach to local veterinary offices, dog clubs and dog shows will help recruit additional four-legged volunteers to the program.

PetSmart’s donation was made possible through the PetSmart Gives Back initiative. District Managers in several states, including Florida, donated their philanthropic funds in honor of their colleague, District Manager Jerry Serafin. Jerry lived in the Orlando area and recently lost his battle with cancer.

Currently, Orlando Health pet therapy teams visit adult and pediatric patients at the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, Orlando Regional Medical Center, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, South Seminole Hospital, and Health Central Hospital.

In 2012, PetSmart teamed up with Phoenix Children's Hospital to sponsor their first animal-assisted therapy program, PetSmart Paws Can Heal. The initial launch was such a success that PetSmart expanded the program to hospitals throughout the country with PetSmart Paws for Hope. The program creates additional pet therapy teams in hospitals and allows for more daily visits from a therapy animal for each patient. Additionally, the program provides support for the patients and their families after their hospital stay. PetSmart plans to expand this program into three new hospitals across the country every year, with Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, Calif. kicking off this spring.


About Orlando Health Orlando Health is a $1.9 billion not-for-profit health care organization and a community-based network of physician practices, hospitals and care centers throughout Central Florida.

The organization, which includes Physician Associates, one of the largest multispecialty practices in central Florida and the area’s only Level One Trauma Centers for adults and pediatrics, is a statutory teaching hospital system that offers both specialty and community hospitals. They are: Orlando Regional Medical Center; Dr. P. Phillips Hospital; South Seminole Hospital; Health Central Hospital, the Arnold Palmer Medical Center, which consists of Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies; the UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health (effective January 31, 2014), South Lake Hospital (50 percent affiliation); and St. Cloud Regional Medical Center (20 percent affiliation). Areas of clinical excellence are heart and vascular, cancer care, neurosciences, surgery, pediatric orthopedics and sports medicine, neonatology, and women’s health.

Orlando Health is one of Central Florida’s largest employers with nearly 15,000 employees and more than 2,500 affiliated physicians supporting our philosophy of providing high quality care and service that revolves around patients’ needs. We prove this everyday with over 110,000 inpatient admissions and nearly 690,000 outpatient visits each year. In all, Orlando Health serves 1.6 million Central Florida residents and nearly 3,000 international patients annually. Additionally, Orlando Health provides approximately $239 million in support of community health needs. More information can be found at

About PetSmartPetSmart, Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) is the largest specialty pet retailer of services and solutions for the lifetime needs of pets. The company employs approximately 53,000 associates and operates more than 1,333 pet stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, over 199 in-store PetSmart® PetsHotel® dog and cat boarding facilities and is a leading online provider of pet supplies and pet care information ( PetSmart provides a broad range of competitively priced pet food and pet products; and offers dog training, pet grooming, pet boarding, PetSmart Doggie Day Camp SM day care services and pet adoption services. Through its in-store pet adoption partnership with PetSmart Charities® and PetSmart Charities® of Canada, PetSmart has helped save the lives of more than 5.7 million pets since 1994. PetSmart Charities, Inc. and PetSmart Charities of Canada (collectively “PetSmart Charities”) are independent, nonprofit organizations that save the lives of homeless pets and reduce shelter intake through spay and neuter efforts. In 2013, nearly 440,000 dogs and cats found homes through PetSmart Charities’ adoption centers in all PetSmart stores and by sponsoring community adoption events. PetSmart Charities is the leader in granting money to help pets in need, with more than $34 million given in 2013 throughout North America.

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