The first Pet Therapy Day will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, at KCS Community Center on 32nd Avenue in Bayside from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is one of their many initiatives to address a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes with support to the community.
Approximately five puppies and three kittens from Best Friends Animal Society will be on site to create a safe space of mutual healing for hate crime victims and the animals without a permanent home. But organizers say that you do not need to be a victim of a hate crime to attend. The event is open to all who are seeking connection with pets, whether it’s to destress or just for fun.
The event is also in partnership with Jenny and Moongchy, a unique pet store based in New Jersey that imports fancy pet accessories from South Korea. Gift bags filled with items from their shop will be up for grabs at the event.
“Our purpose is to create this safe space for them to really enjoy themselves and to have fun,” said Sara Hwang, a program manager at KCS who organized the event. She says that she was inspired by pet therapy events that her college held when finals week would come around.
Animal-assisted therapy has been found to reduce PTSD symptoms, along with anxiety and depression. Being in the presence of animals can be comforting, elicit positive emotions and reduce feelings of isolation.
“A lot of the victims that I have spoken with are hurt, emotionally, mentally, and some of them physically. And it’s very unfortunate that whoever hurt them, is not going to help them to heal,” said Hwang. “Through these programs and services that we provide, if they can walk away saying ‘I feel better. I feel safe among my community and I am glad that I’m able to seek help,’ then I think we can make a little bit of a difference one by one.”
On Nov. 11, KCS will host another pet therapy session in partnership with Korean K9 Rescue, a volunteer dog-rescue organization based in Queens. The organization rescues homeless and mistreated dogs from South Korea and brings them to the United States for adoption.
KCS also has a state-licensed mental health clinic where clinicians provide culturally sensitive mental health services in both English and Korean. The center also facilitated an anti-Asian hate crime survey that found that the majority of respondents worry about being a victim of a hate crime. The pet therapy initiative is one of their attempts to increase direct services to members of the community in an effort to combat the issue.
Those with any symptoms of Covid-19, other communicable illnesses and allergies are asked to refrain from attending pet therapy events to keep the animals healthy.