Children’s home to introduce animal therapy


The Durbanville Children’s Home is looking at introducing animal therapy to their programme, following a visit to the Underdog Project.

Eight young girls from the children’s home got to experience the unconditional love that only man’s best friend can give, while caring for shelter puppies from the Underdog Project.

The girls, aged between 10 and 14, got to interact with puppies from the project, give them treats, and train them.

Helen Williams, a social worker at the children’s home, said it was a real treat to see the girls interact with the puppies.

“Most of our children come from environments where they had not experienced nurturing and love. The interaction with the animals boosted their self-esteem as they experienced the unconditional love that an animal has for a human,” said Ms Williams.

The Underdog Project is an animal-assisted therapy project which helps youth overcome social and emotional problems, through training shelter dogs from the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG).

The project is a registered NPO based on the premises of DARG in Hout Bay.

“At first some of the girls were too scared to go near the puppies, but when it was time to go, they didn’t want to leave their puppy. Some of the girls never had the opportunity to play with a dog, while a few had vague memories of their own dogs back home,” Ms Williams said.

Underdog Project facilitator, Ciara Louw says children and animals have the power to help and heal each other.

“By providing the girls with a well-rounded introduction to shelters, and animal care; they learned so much more. They were able to identify with the animals in a safe and fun way and bring that insight to their own situations, gaining a sense of empowerment, facing fears, empathy and positive communication skills,” said Ms Louw.

Ms Williams met one of the facilitators of the project during a workshop on the use of animal therapy.

“We decided to take some of the girls to experience this programme. There is definitely a place for this kind of work in our therapy and intervention programmes. We are currently investigating how this can be developed further,” she said.