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‘Denied' Pit Bull Invited to Reapply to Therapy Program

A pit bull certified for pet therapy may get his chance to help patients heal at a South Jersey hospital network after the CEO invited the dog’s owner to reapply for the pet therapy program.

“We are not restricting any breed of dog from our pet therapy program,” Virtua President and CEO Richard Miller said.

Miller is referring to 3-year-old pit bull Aladdin, who became certified as a pet therapy dog earlier this summer but was not accepted into the Virtua Hospital's program.

The dog's owner, Michele Schaffer said the hospital refused Aladdin’s participation because an internal survey of the hospital had been conducted and, based on those results, pit bulls were not allowed in the hospital’s program. 

But Miller said that survey does not exist and a miscommunication between hospital staff and the dog's owner likely caused the confusion.

“We did reach out to Aladdin’s owner and rectified the situation,” said Miller, who invited Schaffer and Aladdin to reapply for Virtua's pet therapy program.

Schaffer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It is unclear if she plans to reapply.

“We do not take a stand on a breed,” Miller said. “We take a stand on a dog.”

The process to clear a dog for the therapy program is lengthy and involves many obstacles. In every case they receive, individual evaluations of dogs are performed to ensure they are suitable for interaction with patients, Miller said.

“The bottom line is that we will evaluate Aladdin as part of the program and if he qualifies fully we will not restrict him from the program,” Miller said. “We will do what’s best for patients at the end of the day."

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