About Us

The Visiting Pet Program was originally created in 1987 through a grant from the Mayor's office to the LA/SPCA. The program was then known as the LA/SPCA Pet Therapy Program. The group was made up of one staff member from the SPCA and 3-4 volunteers. Joyce Kleinfeldt, former Program Coordinator, was one of those volunteers. The original group used shelter animals to make up their visiting teams.

At the end of a year, the grant was not renewed, but the volunteers decided to continue with the program and now used their own pets. The small group was being coordinated by Joyce and another volunteer. After a few months, the other coordinator moved out of the area, leaving Joyce with the option to either take on the responsibilities of the group by herself or just let the concept of an animal assisted therapy program in New Orleans die. Fortunately, she chose to take on the task alone. That was 1988. For the next few years she made up the schedules, wrote the newsletters, selected the pets and did whatever was necessary to keep the group going. All of this was done at her own expense.

In January, 1991, the group was made up of 7 very dedicated volunteers, visiting 10-12 facilities only once a year. By the spring of 1995, the numbers had grown to about 20, many of whom are still involved with VPP.

Then came Jim Tedford, the new, now former, Executive Director of the LA/SPCA.

At an organizational meeting in the spring of 1995, Jim told us about an animal assisted therapy group he developed in Knoxville, Tennessee. Under Jim's leadership, that group grew to over 300 volunteers. Jim challenged us and directed us that night. Under his guidance we created the Steering Committee which eventually became the Board of Directors. He helped us develop the orientation/evaluation process now is place. We restructured and renamed ourselves the LA/SPCA Visiting Pet Program.

Jim said to us, "if you build it and build it right, they will come". Eventually, you will become independent and can become your own 501 C3 non-profit. His prediction came true in the Spring of 2000.

In 2007, we hit our landmark year of 20 years of service to the greater New Orleans area. Post-Katrina, our volunteer numbers are just over 100 and rebuilding. We currently serve 22 facilities, each getting a visit at least once a month; that number also continues to rebuild since the storm. In 2000, we developed our very successful literacy project, Reading To Rover.

In 2002 we received "Silent Hero" recognition from Channel 4 Television and in 2004 we were recognized by the LA/SPCA as "Humanitarians of the Year". Truly an honor coming from the organization that created the concept of animal assisted therapy in our area. Our web site has brought us attention from across the state, the country and as far away as Germany, England, Greece and Norway.

We take great pride in our grassroots beginning. It is only through the enormous dedication of our volunteers and their amazing animals that our program survived and continues to thrive. All these years later, Joyce Kleinfeldt is still at the helm of the ship, steering us into the future.

Read All About Us

WDSU
June 8, 2016

Gambit New Orleans
Reading to Rover
April, 2016

New Orleans Times Picayune
October 8, 2015

WGNO
July 12, 2013

WorldNow
July 4, 2013

Annette Sisco
The Advocate
July 3, 2013

Meg Farris
WWLTV
July, 2013

Quo Vadis Hollins
New Orleans Times Picayune
June, 2012

Ann Nungesser
New Orleans Times Picayune
December, 2011

Annette Sisco
New Orleans Times Picayune
December, 2011

Chris Granger
Reading To Rover Project
New Orleans Times Picayune
September, 2011

Shelia Stroup Column
New Orleans Times Picayune
June, 2011

Ann Nungesser Column
Reading To Rover Project
New Orleans Times Picayune
October, 2010

Shelia Stroup Column
New Orleans Times Picayune
July, 2009

Shelia Stroup Column
Reading To Rover Project
New Orleans Times Picayune
October, 2000

Visiting Pet Program
New Orleans Times Picayune
September, 2000

Reading To Rover Project
New Orleans Times Picayune
August, 2000