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Outreach Therapy Pet Volunteer

St John’s mission is to prevent and relieve sickness and injury, and to act to enhance health and well-being of people of all races and creeds anywhere in New Zealand.

St John is a charitable organisation with a volunteer ethos. It operates independently of Government and business, and serves communities throughout New Zealand by delivering an extensive range of services and products in the health and health-related fields. These services and products include:

  • Emergency and non-emergency ambulance services for approximately 90% of New Zealand's population.
  • Emergency care and first aid at public events
  • Friendship and support over the phone to the lonely and the housebound
  • Transport for people to their health appointments
  • Outreach Therapy Pets – visits to schools and rest homes
  • Hospital volunteers – supporting patients and their families
  • First aid training and health-related products and services to the community.
  • St John Youth programme where young New Zealanders from 6 to 18 years can learn first aid, health care, self-discipline and general life skills in their communities.

St John and SPCA have joined together to provide two Outreach Therapy Pet (OTP) services where volunteers and their dogs support people in their local community. 

Visiting residential care facilities and providing friendship to residents by:

  • Sitting with, listening to and talking with residents
  • Reading to them
  • Taking residents for a walk on the premise
  • Offering companionship and being a friend

Visiting Schools and helping children with their reading:

This programme is based on the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) programme developed in the USA. The READ programme has been running successfully in schools and libraries in New Zealand for many years. Learning to read can be a stressful process for some children, not because they are not capable, but because they get nervous and self-conscious. Our programme focuses on children who are having difficulty learning to read. Experiences have shown that when children read with a dog they start to relax and then they forget about being self-conscious or nervous because the dog (or other animal) is a non-judgemental, non-critical audience. Research has shown that children who read to animals are more relaxed with slower pulse and respiration rates, they are physically more relaxed, they are more likely to self-correct when reading words, and try words they are unfamiliar with. It is a simple concept that can produce great results.

It is hoped that all volunteers, no matter how large or small their commitment to St John will feel part of the St John team and enjoy all the support, friendship and sense of team that comes with that. You will be provided with all the resources and assistance available to help you do the best job possible. OTP volunteers will gain satisfaction from knowing they are helping people in their local community.


People who become OTP volunteers are community-minded individuals who understand the need for care and want to make a difference to someone’s life. They must have a dog that is suitable for the role; one that is obedient and social. Note: dogs must pass an SPCA assessment to confirm suitability for this role.

St John provide training for people who are interested in becoming an OTP volunteer. Generally, an OTP volunteer will have strong communication skills, a compassionate nature and an appreciation of different cultures. 

A Police background check is required for this role.

Time commitment

1 -2 hours per week mosly between the hours of 9 - 3pm except for library based reading which takes place once a week after school and on some Saturdays.

Getting started

The first step is to express your interest by filling out the form below. We will then put you in touch directly with the organisation for more information on the role and how to proceed.

Ref: 1845

Apply for this role:


Demographic information:
Used anonymously for statistics to demonstrate our impact to funders.
Other information (optional):
In applying for this position I confirm that I have read the requirements of the position and believe I have the skills and attributes required to carry out this role safely and effectively.