Seattle researcher seeks crowdfunding for pet therapy for kids with cancer

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by LORI MATSUKAWA / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 8, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 9 at 10:26 AM

SEATTLE -- A local researcher is pitching for dollars online to advance research on pet therapy for children who have cancer.  

Jessica Chubak believes people intuitively believe pets can reduce stress in cancer patients.  So much so, she thinks those people will bet their money on it.

Chubak says people interested in treating childhood cancer, quantifying the benefits of pet therapy and "definitely animal lovers" are all likely donors.

"I'm hoping we can find out what works best for kids with cancer and what's safe for them," Chubak said.

While many hospitals support pet visits for patients, kids with cancer are often denied access to animals because of fear of infection or allergies.

"Kids with cancer often have suppressed immune function," said Chubak. "They might be more vulnerable (to infections)."  

Chubak wants to establish best practices so children with cancer can enjoy pet visits and lower their stress level.

Christi Dudzik, a counselor and handler from Healing Paws, says her "animal assistant" Paddy, has a soothing effect on patients they visit.  

"The dog really serves as a distraction from why the patient is in the hospital in the first place," she said.

Chubak is trying to raise $4,000 on the web site "Microryza," developed by two University of Washington researchers who themselves were seeking funding for their projects. The money will supplement the grant she's already received, allowing her to interview more families and do a pilot program at more than one location.  She has a deadline.  She must reach her goal by the end of the month (August 30) or she'll get nothing.  She's raised about $3,500 so far.  

"We'd like to know what really works to help reduce stress in these children," said Chubak.

Related links:

Crowdfunding site: Can pet visits help kids with cancer?

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