AmTrust Inspired: Canine Therapy Corps

Topics: Nonprofit

Pet owners know the benefits a furry friend can offer. Throughout history, animals have provided unconditional love and companionship, with an uncanny sense of knowing just when we need a little extra support after a rough day.

Science is behind the calming effect animals have on humans. Studies have shown that spending just 15 minutes of bonding time with an animal increases serotonin levels in the brain, which helps reduce stress levels and feelings of depression. Animals can also have a positive effect on physical health, as interacting with an animal has been known to reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.

For these reasons and more, animal-assisted therapy, also known as pet therapy, has become a popular form of therapy over the last several years. It’s used in a variety of settings, from rehabilitation centers and hospitals to schools and senior living communities. The goal is to improve quality of life for those enjoying interactions with their new four-legged friends.

Must Love Dogs: Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago, Illinois

For Callie Cozzolino, executive director of Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago, witnessing the impact dogs and volunteers have on others makes her feel lucky to be in the profession she’s chosen.

“You see things like participants in a substance use recovery program talking about how the dog broke down all of the walls that they built for years and has brought them into a place of trust and happiness and recovery,” she said. “You see someone who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury or a stroke take their first steps because they've got the dog right there with them.”

Canine Therapy Corps has approximately 65 active volunteer teams working in various programs throughout the Chicagoland area. For over 25 years, they have been able to serve their community with goal-directed, interactive animal-assisted therapy services free of charge. Some of the programs Canine Therapy Corps offers include outpatient pediatric therapy services at Advocate Children’s Hospital, psychosocial programs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression and other mental conditions at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and a group program for adult in-patients undergoing physical rehabilitation at Rush University Medical Center, just to name a few.

“As long as we are creative, we can pretty much incorporate the dogs into anything that someone is working on,” Ms. Cozzolino said. “What the dog is really doing is just helping that person forget about their pain, forget about the fact that they’re in therapy for a moment. And instead, they’re playing with a dog and having fun with a dog.”

“The whole point of our work is taking our love for dogs and applying it to help people,” Ms. Cozzolino added. “The best part is taking dogs and seeing them change people’s lives.”

The Benefits of Being AmTrust Insured

canine therapy corps chicago

Ms. Cozzolino has been with the organization since January of 2004, starting as a volunteer when she worked to get three of her dogs certified in animal-assisted therapy programs. She joined Canine Therapy Corps in 2008, and as executive director, she is now responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. She credits the success of the therapy programs to her team of volunteers, and of course, the hardworking canines.

“We have dogs that work in multiple programs and volunteers that volunteer multiple nights a week,” she said. “So the dogs are our heroes, but so are our volunteers.”

As a nonprofit, they do face unique challenges and risks. “We are a full-time staff of three, so we are running an organization that has 12 programs and does a ton of outreach every year. But we are very short-staffed,” Cozzolino admitted. With such a small staff, running the organization efficiently is always top of mind. That’s where working with an insurance agency and a carrier she can trust comes into play. She talks about how the move from the tiny loft space they were in previously to their new, larger building was seamless thanks to how easy it was to get coverage for the new location.

“When we were about to buy the building, we needed to have coverage in order to close and S. Wolf & Associates very quickly got us a quote from AmTrust,” she said. “We were able to engage our coverage and close on-time and on-schedule.”

The organization has also been fortunate that they have not filed a claim on their insurance since its inception back in 1991. “We like to attribute that to the fact that we have a pretty hard assessment, and we are very careful about the dogs that we select for programming, and we follow them and supervise them pretty closely,” Cozzolino said.

Knowing that AmTrust understands the unique risks of nonprofits helps her feel at ease. “We have volunteer policies the cover liability for our volunteers, and anything that happens with our therapy dogs is an extension of those volunteers. We also have coverage that covers our operations, and then obviously property coverage that covers the building. So we've been really fortunate to be able to bundle all of those things and again, not have to worry about shopping around for individual policies and figuring out different coverages.”

Inspired by Our Nonprofit and Small Business Insureds

AmTrust is inspired by the hard work and dedication our insured put into living their dreams every day. Our nonprofit insurance provides targeted coverage designed to meet the specific needs of the nonprofit community. Contact us today to learn more.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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