National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University

  • National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium 2020 (Virtual edition)
    [Photo description: Symposium Co-hosts - Michele Pich, Assistant Director of the Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program at Rowan University & National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team Member; David Frei, celebrity host of the National Dog Show on NBC; at 2019's innaugural National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University].

National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University

SAVE THE DATE! Friday, December 8, 2023

NDS title banner 2021
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Thank you to our sponsors:

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          Hamilton log high resCommunity Sponsor: Carole Stadfield


After the inaugural National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University in November 2019 (in-person), and success with virtual events in 2020 & 2021, and hybrid for 2022 we decided to do it again!

Date:  Friday, December 8, 2023 10:30am-4:30pm EST

Cost: TBD

In-person event: Enyon Ballroom, Chamberlain Student Center (201 Mullica Hill Rd/, Glassboro, NJ 08028)

Virtual Event: WebEx link will be sent to virtual attendees the day before the event

The National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University is one of America’s most prominant gatherings devoted to therapy dogs. The day-long conference brings together therapy dog handlers, health care experts, academics, those who want to get involved and people who simply love dogs, to share information, cutting edge research, insights from practical applications and best practices.

The conference is hosted by Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, just 30 minutes from downtown Philadelphia. The school is home to the ground-breaking Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program where students have access to therapy dogs year-round.

The 2023 conference will be held on Friday, December 8th from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30p.m. (EST). While we are excited to be back in-person, but will also be open to people from across the United States, and around the world who cannot travel to be with us in-person through our virtual option. This is a human-only event (we love your furry ones, but please leave them at home unless they are an actively working service dog... sorry no emotional support animals, therapy dogs, pets or other animals allowed).

The symposium is hosted by Michele Pich & David Frei, and organized by the planning committee. David is the expert analyst on NBC’s National Dog Show, broadcast every year on Thanksgiving, and one of the best known names in the canine world. He is also a prolific writer and founder of Angel on a Leash. Michele Pich is the Founding Assistant Director of Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program and Adjunct Professor of Law and Justice Studies at Rowan. Michele has worked in animal-assisted therapy (and other animal-assisted activities and interactions) for many years, including with her own certified therapy dog, Vivian Peyton, who is a therapy dog ambassador for the National Dog Show and part of Rowan's Pet Therapy program.




Michele Pich, MA, MS, CAIS & David Frei, BS 


2023 Speaker Line-up: TBA-  Call for Abstracts coming soon!

2022 Speakers Included:



 Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC, CAEBI

President, International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy®

Topic: What Do We Mean by a "Good Relationship" with Animals?

Speaker Bio: Risë VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC is a licensed psychologist, registered play therapist-supervisor, certified dog behavior consultant, and certified animal ethology and behavior instructor from Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania USA with 48 years of experience in a variety of settings. She is the author of several award-winning books including Animal Assisted Play Therapy, The Human Half of Dog Training, Filial Therapy: Strengthening Parent-Child Relationships Through Play, Child-Centered Play Therapy, and dozens of chapters, articles, and online courses. She works with children and families with mental health or relationship challenges, and also assists dogs with behavioral issues, specializing in puppy mill and unsocialized dogs who exhibit extreme fear. She teaches mental health, allied health, education, and animal behavior professionals throughout the world. With Tracie Faa-Thompson of the UK, she has co-created the field of Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ which represents the integration of several fields (e.g., psychology, play therapy, animal sciences, ethology) and uses a goodness-of-fit model to ensure the voluntary choices and enjoyment of any animals involved. She is especially interested in helping people develop healthy, reciprocal relationships with their animals, and increasing their awareness of animal sentience and well-being. She is particularly interested in animal agency throughout their lifespans.


zenithson-ng-headshot--use-this.jpg Zenithson Ng, DVM, MS, Dipl ABVP

TopicExploring the Heart and Soul of a Therapy Dog

Speaker Bio:Zenithson Ng is a clinical associate professor of the Community Practice Service at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. He received his DVM from Cornell University; then completed an internship at the ASPCA, and an ABVP residency combined with a master’s degree in human-animal bond studies at Virginia Tech. His research and teaching interests span all aspects of the human-animal bond including the effect of human-animal interaction on both humans and animals, the veterinary-client relationship, and stress reduction in both veterinary and animal-assisted intervention settings.


nicole-skeehan-headshot.jpg  Nicole Skeehan, BA, CPDT-KA

Topic: So you want a therapy dog, but does your dog want a therapy job? What you need to know to decide whether pet therapy is right for your dog, and choosing the right placement or facility for your individual.

Speaker Bio: Nicole Larocco-Skeehan is a Dog Trainer and the Owner of Philly Unleashed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Nicole has over 25 years of experience working with animals and currently specializes in group and private dog training and behavior modification. Nicole’s business has been named the "Best of Philadelphia" and she is the author of “The Teaching Dog: Partnering with Dogs for Instruction, Socialization, and Demonstration in Your Training Practice.” She was also on the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers Board of Directors. Nicole holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Advertising from Robert Morris University.

Philly Unleashed: 


taylor-chastain-griffin-headshot.jpg  Taylor Chastain Griffin, PhD, MA, ABC certified  dog trainer, certified therapy animal team evaluator

Topic: Best Practices in Professionalized AAI

Speaker Bio: Dr. Taylor Chastain Griffin is the Executive Director of the Association of Animal-Assisted Intervention Professionals and is the National Director of Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) Advancement at Pet Partners. In these roles, she works with other field leaders to motivate standardization and professionalization of the intervention. With a background as a dog trainer, therapy dog handler, and mental health counselor, Dr. Chastain Griffin came to her position with a variety of experiences that inform her work. Having completed her doctorate in research psychology with a focus on the human-animal bond, she works to formally integrate expertise in the field of human services with best practices while working with therapy animals.

Association of Animal-Assisted Intervention Professionals (AAAIP):   


tamar-mayer-headshot-cropped.jpg  Tamar Paltin Mayer,  BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator

Topic: Raising a Library Therapy Dog during a Pandemic

Speaker Bio: Starting in the zoological world in 2009, I have worked with animal behavior in clinical and private facilities before becoming the Director of Dog Programs for New Leash on Life USA. After several years of program development and running three prison training programs I left to teach future animal professionals at Harcum College where I am now the Assistant Program Director of Animal Center Management. I also own a private practice focused on rehabilitation for dogs with anxiety, aggression, and reactivity working with local veterinary behaviorists. Tamar has one current therapy and competition/show dog and one up and coming therapy and competition/show dog; both are bullmastiffs and between them we have earned over ten titles in two years (covid years!)


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John Lewis, VMD, DAVDC, FF-OMFS; Lisa Serad, MS; Kimberly Giordano, MSN, CPNP- BC, CORLN; Diana Sweeney, AS

Topic: The Best Friends Bash: Therapy for Children and Dogs with Craniofacial Differences

Speaker Bios: 

Dr. John Lewis obtained his VMD from University of Pennsylvania in 1997 and spent 5 years in general practice prior to returning to the University of Pennsylvania for a residency in dentistry and oral surgery. Dr. Lewis became a diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) in 2005. At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lewis rose to the rank of Associate Professor of Dentistry and Oral Surgery. Dr. Lewis also served as Residency Director and Chief of Surgery of Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lewis is Past President of the American Veterinary Dental Society, and has served as Examination Chair of the AVDC. Dr. Lewis was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry from 2016 though 2021, and writes a monthly column for Veterinary Practice News. In 2019, Dr. Lewis opened Veterinary Dentistry Specialists and founded Silo Academy Education Center, both in Chadds Ford, PA. Silo Academy Education Center is a RACE-approved CEsite.

Veterinary Dentistry Specialists: 


Lisa Serad is the Program Coordinator of the Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she connects dogs with children who need a dose of laughter and encouragement. In this role, she recruits, screens, and trains therapy dog teams, raises awareness of pet therapy, oversees the dozens of volunteers who participate in the program.  Lisa has also created a Facility Dog Program at CHOP, where full time staff members work with their dogs every day, adding a layer of service previously unavailable from volunteers doing monthly or bi-weekly visits. Before coming to CHOP, Lisa held management roles in the real estate, legal, and higher education industries, including at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as a pet therapy volunteer and a professional dog trainer for more than 25 years and was a therapy dog evaluator for 20 years. Lisa holds a BA in Communications and an MS in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania, and has also completed additional graduate coursework in the field of Recreational Therapy at Temple University.

Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia: 


Kimberly Giordano is a former CHOP ENT specialist for Cleft Craniofacial Team. She is currently the Cleft and Craniofacial Coordinator at NEMOURS Children’s Health in Wilmington DE. She is a volunteer Pet therapist through Faithful Friends Organization in DE with her dog, Maisy who has special needs including Cleft Lip and Palate. She was a Veterinary Nurse at University of Pennsylvania Small Animal Veterinary Hospital and North Carolina State Veterinary School and Hospital. Kimberly has a faculty appointment at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Nemours Children's Hospital: 


Diana Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Non-profit, "Craniofacial Connection." She was also previously a Parent Liaison at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for 27 years. She 

Craniofacial Connection:




Hotel accomodations for the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University can be made at:

       The Marriott in Glassboro, NJ (1.5 blocks from event) 

*If staying at the Marriott in Glassboro, please leave your car parked there & either plan to walk to the Chamberlain Student Center or you will be able to request a golf-cart transport if you are mobility impaired.

Campus Map 


Continuing Education Note: Symposium attendees are eligible for:


-For any additional questions about the event, you can reach out to the host until the day before:

Michele Pich (

-For assistance with registration: 

-For assistance with WebEx for virtual attendees: 


* Check out some of the previous years' event speakers here: 

*Shareable flyer for last year's (2021) symposium: DOWNLOAD HERE

*Downloadable Agenda for last year's (2021) event: DOWNLOAD HERE