Peata – The Early Days
Many Peata members have asked about the origins and development of our organisation so we asked our past Chairman, John Bainbridge, who was one of the co-founders to write a piece for us. John wrote;
Pet Facilitated Therapy (PFT) facilities were up and running in several countries by the late 80’s and scientific work on the human-animal bond was appearing in scientific papers. At that time, I was involved with the British Small Animal Association (BSAVA) and the Irish Companion Animal Veterinary Association (ICAVA) We organised meetings over a number of years, usually during World Animal Week to promote PFT and aspects of pet care. At these meetings, we heard from international speakers about the importance of the bond between people and pets – especially on the ways that pet owners and others could benefit from this relationship. These meetings attracted a number of our earliest supporters and it became clear that we had a nucleus of a group to promote the idea in Ireland.
One of our earliest obstacles was the need for a comprehensive insurance policy to cover any possible risk to patients, visitors and others. Most insurance companies were not willing to underwrite this unusual risk, even though we could show that it worked elsewhere. This was eventually overcome and we had our inaugural meeting on Sunday 15th September 1996 in the Hibernian Hotel, Eastmorland Place, Dublin 6. This group included nurses, Rose Coyle and Olive Maguire, Pet owner Pat Morrison whose dog Reneau had already been carrying out unofficial visits to nursing homes, social worker Hilda O’Connell, dog enthusiast and Irish Kennel Club officer Victor Corbally and vets, myself and Orla Doherty.
This group decided that we could form an Irish association to encourage the use of in-house and visiting pets in institutions to enhance the well being of the patients. We studied similar efforts in other countries including PAT Dogs and the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) in the UK. The Delta Society in the US and the Guide Dog Association in Australia, which also ran a PFT scheme. The name Peata was adopted to convey the ideas that the association was Irish and that it concerned itself with pets and the way these interact and help people.
Victor took charge of the assessment of dogs and handlers and his group met at his home in October 1996. They decided that our clients would be best served if we had a good standard of assessment for both dog and visitor working as a team. They drew up the rules of assessment that were to be applied to all applicants.
Hilda had a meeting in her house with Rose and Olive to which she invited Maura McDonnell, a ward sister in Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross. Maura had already established Cashel – a trained Labrador Retriever supplied by the Guide Dog Association, as a permanent resident in the Palliative Care Unit of the Hospice. The group established the rationale of our first units, from the health care point of view, and decided that we should seek support of the James Connolly Memorial Hospital and Our Lady’s Hospice for our first visits. This support was readily obtained and the long care units in each were identified as the best wards to start in. Maura drew up her recommendations for residential pets based on her experience with Cashel in the Hospice.
Victor enlisted the help of our first 3 teams arranged for Orla and himself to assess them in a real ward situation in the James Connolly Memorial Hospital – he even called everyone back a second time to ensure that the assessment technique and the teams were up to scratch.
At the same time as this was going on, we finalised our insurance and Pat arranged for line drawings of our mascot Homer to ‘lighten up’ our information booklets and to serve as our logo. She also arranged for her solicitors to draw up the necessary legal work to establish Peata as a limited company. We decided on our address and contact numbers and prepared our stationary. We were going to provide a voluntary service to professional facilities and people in need and we were determined, from the outset that we should behave and appear in as professional and as responsible a manner as possible.
Following the instructions from Rose and Maura, we then met with management, nurses and doctors in our two units to decide on protocols and eventually held our first visit to the James Connolly Memorial Hospital on June 27th 1997.
Eastern Health Board Psychiatrist, Dr. Wrigley, conducted a scientific study before and after our first series of visits. This showed that the Peata visits had a definite benefit for patients and staff alike. The study with its positive message was later presented at a medical meeting and was really one of the first major stepping stones for our young organisation.