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About AaTs

Our Mission

Animal Assisted Therapy Services (AaTs) provides children and adults who have physical, cognitive, or psychosocial disabilities the opportunity to experience the power of the unique human/animal bond as a therapeutic intervention thus promoting lifelong health and wellness.

In addition, AaTs strives to bring education and information about the use of animal assisted interventions to the community.

Our Story

Chris Patella (founder of AaTs) was a music specialist in the Bridgeport Public Schools 2000-2011. While teaching in one of the most difficult schools, Chris learned about the "Paws to Read" program which helps struggling readers by reading aloud to a non-judgmental listener, a therapy dog. Chris had recently become certified as a team with her first therapy dog, a miniature Dachshund named Gretyl.

Together, they started an afterschool reading program that was featured in the NY Times. While the reading program was successful, Chris noticed that the days Gretyl was present in the school, the impact of the therapy dog went much deeper. Kids who had no reason to smile, smiled. Staff morale improved. There were noticeably less violent incidents in the office. The power of the human/animal bond was clearly observable throughout the entire school.

In 2005, Chris adopted three Lab mix rescues from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She brought each of them to training classes and decided they, too, would make wonderful therapy dogs. She expanded on her love of training and received her Certified Professional Dog Trainer certificate and later became a licensed instructor and evaluator for Pet Partners.

Simultaneously, she expanded her love of horses and riding. She received her certification as a certified PATH therapeutic riding instructor.

In 2010, she decided to return for a Masters Degree in Recreational Therapy as this field frequently uses canine and equine assisted therapy as intervention.

Animal Assisted Therapy Services was born in 2010 as a non-profit 501c3 and has been providing the finest in equine and canine therapeutic interventions ever since.

Over the years, the organization has grown to incorporate small animals within the practice as well as dogs and horses. We cherish our wonderful bunnies, guinea pigs, and fish!

Chris's daughter, Beth, completed her Masters in Recreational Therapy and joined the team in 2018. Beth recently completed her Masters in Social Work and is a Licensed Social Worker in NY working full time with children and families in a mental health clinic.  She continues to co-direct the organization with Chris while seeing clients monthly in CT.

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