Locals Express Outrage After Pit Bull Rejected From Therapy Program

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Valerie Bruder Photography
    Aladdin in his superhero cape.

    A public outcry against the refusal of a hospital to include a pit bull in a pet therapy program has sparked an online response from the hospital’s president.

    Aladdin, a 3-year-old pit bull, was badly beaten when he first met his owner, Michele Schaffer. Yet according to Schaffer, the brutal beating didn't affect his demeanor.

    “Despite what someone did to him he loves everyone,” Schaffer said.

    Schaffer was inspired to get Aladdin, also known as Laddy, certified for dog therapy programs. The lengthy process involved paperwork and behavior tests, which Laddy passed at the beginning of the summer.

    The pit bull’s certification with Therapy Dogs Inc. has allowed him to sign up for the Wagging Tales Reading Program at Evesham Library and be a regular therapy dog at the Ronald McDonald House in Camden.

    But Virtua Hospital rejected Laddy’s application to join their pet therapy program.

    When Schaffer called to inquire, she was told that an internal survey was conducted, and based on that survey they were not going to allow any pit bulls into the hospital’s program.

    Her frustration with the hospital was expressed in a Facebook post by Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue. The nonprofit shared Aladdin's story and encouraged Facebook users to contact the hospital and express their disappointment.
    One of those outraged dog lovers received a link to a response that she shared in the comments. The message, from Richard P. Miller, Virtua President and CEO, claims that hospital policy does not prohibit a specific breed from visiting the hospital.
    “Our policy requires the completion of the application paperwork and a screening and training process,” the message reads. “In the case referred to in the many messages I've received, the fact is that the applicant never completed the correct paperwork and has not been through the application process which can be lengthy.”
     
    But Schaffer says she received an email from the hospital confirming they had received her completed paperwork.

    “That’s discrimination. Every dog is like a person,” Schaffer said.


    She says her dog has never had any disciplinary issues, and gets along well with everyone, including others dogs, children, and even cats.

    “It’s not about Virtua,” Schaffer said, “It’s about what Aladdin brings to the people at Virtua as patients.”