The mental health trust for Norfolk and Suffolk is looking for dog and cat owners to come forward to take their pets into wards.

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Contact with an animal is especially beneficial for people with mental health problems and can alleviate depression and give them something to look forward to. Volunteering a pet is also therapeutic for the pet and their owner as they are rewarded with smiles and appreciation from staff and service users, said officials from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

To take part in the scheme, volunteers and their feline friends and canine companions need to be registered with the Pets As Therapy (PAT) charity.

The process involves completing an application form, providing two character references, a copy of the pet’s vaccination certificate and having the dog or cat’s temperament assessed to check they are sociable and friendly, calm and gentle when being stroked and not fearful of new stimuli.

Owners must register as a volunteer with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and have had their pets for at least six months before applying and dogs and cats must be a minimum of nine months old.

For more information about how you and your pet can really make a difference, call voluntary service manager Pene Kenrick-Ward on 01603 421580 or email penelope.kenrick-ward@nsft.nhs.uk

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