This year, the Student Health Services and Student Government Association (SGA) took a unique approach to help students cope with stress.

The UTSA “Puppy Zone” was held on Tuesday afternoon, April 29, in the University Center Ski Lounge outside of Chili’s.

Delta Pet Partners of San Antonio provided six therapy dogs free of charge that students could interact with for a limited amount of time. They opted to bring trained therapy dogs — as opposed to actual puppies — so that the dogs would be prepared to handle a potentially unpredictable situation. The dogs are trained therapy dogs certified by the national non-profit Pet Partners.

Health Education Coordinator II Amanda Graves worked closely with Delta Pet Partners to bring the dogs to UTSA. “Animal assisted therapy can provide students with a short break that can improve their mood and help them return to their studies with less stress and anxiety,” said Graves.

The Puppy Zone has been a long-term project from SGA’s University Advancement Committee. Originally proposed in the spring of 2013, the Puppy Zone faced opposition and doubt from the student body, according to University Advancement Chair Josh Fierro.

“This is not only an accomplishment from the University Advancement Committee, but an accomplishment from Student Government as a whole,” said Fierro.

Vicky Gurinsky serves as the treasurer and event coordinator for Delta Pet Partners. “Since October I’ve been working with Amanda Graves. Our team is very excited to visit with students,” said Gurinksy about the project.

In the past, the dogs have provided therapy at assisted living centers, hospitals and have provided reading therapy to elementary school children. Their visit to UTSA will mark the first time that they have provided therapy in a college setting.

Graves hopes to continue bringing therapy dogs to campus to help students relax in the future. “If students have a positive response to the program, we would definitely love to bring this program to campus again and make it a recurring program.”

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