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Gabriel’s Angels Changes Young Lives: The Phoenix nonprofit is the only program in Arizona that delivers pet therapy to at-risk children.

Mar 29, 2016 09:48AM ● By By Martin Miron

Nonprofit Gabriel’s Angels is the only program in Arizona that delivers healing pet therapy to at-risk children. One hundred and seventy-five registered pet therapy teams, comprised of owners and their pets, visit more than 120 facilities serving almost 14,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children in Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott free of charge. The therapy visits teach core social behaviors, nurture their emotional development and enhance the quality of their lives. The long-term goal is to instill an overall emotional sense of well-being, safety and happiness that will prevent them from continuing the cycle of violence as adults.

Michele Shipitofsky, chief development officer of Gabriel’s Angels, states, “We work with facilities that care for the at-risk population—homeless, foster care, group homes and title 1 schools. The teams work with 10 to 12 children at a time, an hour-and-a-half every other week at their location. In almost all cases, the animals are dogs, though we do have a small horse available.”

Gabriel's Angels visits serve children from infants to kids 18 years old and also teach humane treatment of animals. Most visits to abused and at-risk children include animal-assisted activities: goal-related experiences that improve the quality of the child's life through the use of the human-animal bond. They use the term pet therapy because people more easily recognize that to mean animals visiting with human clients. The registered team works under the direction of therapists that set goals and evaluate the process.

“The organization is always looking for pets, pet owners and humans without an animal willing to volunteer,” says Shipitofsky. Gabriel’s Angels holds regular information sessions for anyone who is interested in learning how the process works.

For more information, visit


Fundraiser at the Marriott

Gabriel’s Angels will present the free annual Unleash the Love fundraising breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m., April 28, at JW Marriott Desert Ridge to generate awareness about abused, neglected and at-risk youth in the community. Power hour and registration begins at 7 a.m. This year’s Precious Paws honorees are attorney Kathy Pidgeon and Clear Channel Outdoor Vice President of Sales Brad Gould. The event will feature inspirational testimonials from partnering agencies and a presentation on the agency’s mission. Gabriel’s Angels’ future vision is to add 170 pet therapy teams to reach an additional 10,000 children in Arizona. The cost to support one therapy team is $3,500 annually.

For more information, call 602-266-0875.