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senior outreach

Our Secondhand Hope program offers companion pet visits to Minnesota assisted living communities and other facilities.


Our goal is to provide both humans and animals with comfort, socialization and companionship. Volunteers bring their personal animals, including dogs (both large and small) and cats, to participate in the visits. Each animal and its handler receives guidance from Secondhand Hounds staff in order to make the experience both enjoyable and safe.

Numerous and varied scientific studies have proven that interaction with companion animals offer a wide range of benefits, both mental and physical. Some of these benefits include:

Physical Health:

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Improves cardiovascular health

  • Releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect

  • Diminishes overall physical pain

  • The act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some folks need


Mental Health:

  • Lifts spirits and lessens depression

  • Decreases feelings of isolation and alienation

  • Encourages communication

  • Provides comfort

  • Increases socialization

  • Reduces boredom

  • Lowers anxiety

  • Reduces loneliness


Secondhand Hope FAQs

What are the benefits of the Secondhand Hope Program?

There are SO many benefits that come from bringing an animal to visit residents so here are the two biggest highlights: 1. Spending time with an animal increases the years that someone lives, and perhaps more importantly, the quality of those years. The Secondhand Hope program provides life-enriching benefits to thousands of people every month. 2. By placing rescue animals with sensitive people - those with dementia, Alzheimer's, or severe neurodivergent conditions, for example - the Secondhand Hope program proves that rescue animals are a force for good. They're a benefit to society. It's remarkable to consider that, just by showing up, an animal can do these amazing things. That's why we say "Our heroes don't wear capes. They wear collars."

How does volunteering for the Secondhand Hope program work?

Volunteer teams are comprised of an owner and their pet dog or cat. New volunteer teams will have a one-on-one orientation and evaluation to make sure both the human and the animal are a good fit for the program. The animals do not need to be therapy-certified; however, they do need to be up to date on vaccinations, under the owner’s control, and accepting of new people. Volunteer teams will visit assisted living once per month for about an hour.

What types of communities does Secondhand Hope serve?

Most of the communities we serve are senior living communities with residents in memory care and assisted living. We also visit adult day centers and group homes for neurodiverse adults. We are interested in expanding our base and sharing the love. If you represent an organization that would benefit from having animal visits, contact us at hope@secondhandhounds.org to discuss options.

How will my animal be evaluated for the Secondhand Hope program?

All animals are evaluated based on certain criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Friendly demeanor
  • Willingness and enjoyment of petting and attention
  • Basic obedience
  • Steady temperament
  • Ability to remain calm around groups of people and some medical equipment
  • Lack of jumping or "mouthiness"

Do I have to be evaluated, or just my animal?

We evaluate our human volunteers too! We evaluate on potential volunteers' interpersonal skills, friendly and warm personality, ability to converse with a wide range of people and willingness to help. Our goal is for the program to grow to include many volunteer teams, so that we can provide a large array of people with the enjoyment and comfort of companion animal visits.

I have a Secondhand Hope specific question! Who can I talk to?

Please email hope@secondhandhounds.org and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can!

I represent an assisted living community, what do i do to get my community involved?

Fantastic! Your residents are going to benefit tremendously from the Hope visits. The first step is to contact the Secondhand Hope program coordinator at hope@secondhandhounds.org. You’ll discuss options for conducting visits in a way that makes sense for your community, guidelines to keep the animals and residents happy and safe, and go through any questions you might have.